Capturing the Old Days

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Old photographs can’t do anybody any good if they’re stuffed in a trash can.
There’s an effort under way to salvage black and white pictures of Tupelo and Lee County.
Toward that end, the Oren Dunn City Museum and the Lee County Library are inviting people to bring their photos in to be scanned into digital form.
“Sometimes, you get something that they thought was useless but we go ape over,” said Julian Riley.
Riley has teamed up with Boyd Yarbrough, Mim Leake, Bill Lyle, David Baker and Dick Hill. They have collaborated on a series of picture postcard books that feature Northeast Mississippi towns.
Now, they’re working on a book that will use old photos to showcase the region, and they want your help.
“Depending on how many photos we get, we’re contemplating doing two books,” Riley said. “One, ‘A Pictorial History of Lee County,’ the other, ‘A Pictorial History of Tupelo.’”
Scanning will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, as well as March 17, 24 and 31, at the library. The museum will accept photographs from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, in addition to March 20 and 27.

Out of the trash
One of the photos already collected depicts a groundbreaking ceremony for Carnation Milk Products Co. on Jan. 31, 1927.
“After the lady who owned it died, the photo went into a Dumpster,” Yarbrough said. “Her sitter’s son saw it and saved it.”
The books won’t just highlight prestigious people. Photos of ordinary folks are welcome, too.
“A lot of times, there’s a picture of a person and there will be a building in the background that doesn’t exist anymore,” Riley said.
The hope for this project is to make the past accessible in the future.
“That’s what we’re working toward,” Yarbrough said, “trying to preserve a photographic history of Tupelo and Lee County.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or