The new exhibit at Merced County Courthouse Museum aims to bring history to life – or rather, to raise it from the dead.
The opening night reception of “Ghosts of Merced County: Recreating Historical Moments” is at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Courthouse Museum, at the corner of N and 21st streets.
The museum teamed with the Merced Camera Club to combine historical photos with their modern-day equivalents, giving the fresh photos a haunting presence from Mercedians of past decades.
Sam Shaw, the president of the club, said the technique is called “ghosting.” A typical example is a photo called “Ladies by the Lake,” where the lake is seen as it looks today as 1910s-era women sit in their dresses and big hats.
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Shaw said the technique may sound easy, but he put an average of four hours into each image. First, the photographer has to line up the shot, and then comes the tedious part of using Photoshop to take out all the cracks and crevices around the people, he said.
“It’s a lot of work to remove the background,” he said. “But it’s fun.”
You want to bring history alive.
Sarah Lim, the executive director of the museum
He went on to say a ghosting project of that size – there were 40 images in all – was a “little unusual” for the club. The club of more than 30 has been around for more than 50 years.
Another photo shows a couple of dozen people posing with Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome in the distant background. A club member moved the folks into the modern photo, which shows Half Dome has seen little change in 100 years.
A half-dozen members contributed to the display, according to Sarah Lim, the executive director of the museum.
“You want to bring history alive,” she said.
Lim said the newest exhibit also ties in nicely with the Halloween season.
The images also will be accompanied by local ghost stories, according to Herb Wood, a museum docent. There are a few different ghost tales related to Lake Yosemite, for example.
Another tale is set at the Pavilion at the Merced County Fairgrounds. Legend has it that a boxer who was killed in the ring still haunts the fairgrounds building, causing the lights to flicker.
The wiring in the building also could just be old, Wood noted. “But what do I know?” he said.
The opening night reception is free. Regular admission to the museum is also free, and the doors are open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.