Potts Photos, A legacy for the ages

By Cathy Ingalls, Albany Regional Museum board member

Bob Potts: ARM Object ID 2008.200.417

Bob Potts: ARM Object ID 2008.200.417

Photography enthusiast the late Robert “Bob” Potts of Albany took photos and collected them mostly of his home town and now 7,000 of his prints have been numbered, sorted and scanned and posted on the Albany Regional Museum’s website.

The historical images can be viewed by category: aerial views, agriculture, bands, buildings, clubs, events, fire stations, home front, homes, horses, industry, interiors, outdoors and people.

Other groups are schools, sports, streets, timber and transportation.

To view the photos go to www.armuseum.com and look under the header Research.

The entire project was facilitated by the museum and the State Historic Preservation Office in the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Currently, reproduction of the photos is limited because of processes that need to be implemented and installed, which takes money that the museum doesn’t have available, said Keith Lohse, the museum’s executive director.

Lohse said another 10,000 historical photos at the museum still have to be digitalized.

Most of the photos on the website were taken from five books Potts put together with the title “Remembering When.” Four of the books are for sale at the museum priced as $14 each.

Potts, who died at age 91 in 2007, was “the leading authority on Albany,” fellow historian Jerry Brenneman told the Democrat-Herald when Potts died.

Brenneman went on to say Potts “knew more about Albany than any living person, and if you ever had a question about Albany or an event, he usually knew the answer.”

Former Democrat-Herald publisher John Buchner said through Potts’s books and photos “he leaves a rich legacy for the ages. Bob had a reverence for history and the need to preserve it for future generations.”

And Potts has done just that, primarily with his Zeiss Super Ikonta B., which was the folding-bellows type popular at that time.

Potts was born in 1916 to Leslie and Mary Louise Hanke Potts. They owned The Crest Confectionary, a soda fountain and ice cream store. Bob Potts later was associated with Duedall-Potts Stationers in downtown Albany.

Potts lived all of his life in Albany except for his three years and two months spent in the Army during World War II. As a short wave ham radio operator with the 45th Infantry, he carried a camera, taking photographs as his unit fought its way through 511 days of combat, starting in Sicily and ending in Germany.

Potts was on the Anzio beachhead in Italy, which was horrific he said, but in an interview with the Democrat-Herald he said his worst recollection of the war was being one of the first soldiers to tour and document the Dachau concentration camp outside Munich.

Most of his time oversees, however, was away from the action. His job was to stand by in case field telephones lines were cut.

When Potts returned from the war and after he retired from Duedall-Potts, he routinely asked people if they had any historic photos showing the area. If they did, he would borrow the photos to make negatives.

He stored his negatives and photos in a fireproof cabinet in his Albany home.

For more information about the Potts’ collection or about how to get a copy of “Remembering When”, contact the museum at 541-967-7122.

The museum at 136 Lyon St. N.W. is open between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.