Exploring 20th Century New Jersey Through Captivating Photography Exhibit

Thursday, December 28th, 2023

Pictured Above: Self-portrait of Grant Castner with camera, Stony Brook bridge, Princeton Township, New Jersey, 1898. Digital print from original 4×5 glass plate negative, Gift of Robert R. Jones in Memory of William R. Paquin. Photo Credit: Contributed. 



Trenton, NJ – The State Museum invites you to experience New Jersey history through a recently discovered archive of photographic negatives once belonging to a prolific but long-forgotten local photographer. The exhibition, entitled “Discovering Grant Castner,” features 200 images from the 1890s through the 1910s, curated from the photographer Grant Castner’s large archive of original glass plate negatives. Included in the exhibition are rarely seen objects from the Museum’s Cultural History collection that relate to the subject matter in the photos. The exhibition runs from February 3 through September 15, 2024.

“Discovering Grant Castner” celebrates one New Jerseyan’s passion for photography. Grant Castner (1863-1941), was an amateur photographer born in Belvidere, Warren County, who later lived and worked in Trenton. The images featured reflect Castner’s artistic talent and illustrate numerous aspects of New Jersey history, from pictures of family and friends to the marvels of turn-of-the-century transportation to the flurry of excitement and activity at the famed Inter-state fair in Hamilton Township. Some of the images are close up portraits of individuals he seems to have known well, their comfort with the photographer apparent in their warm, familiar expressions. Others are people he encountered on his travels around Trenton. He even ventured into some of the area schools and captured images of children at play and at their desks. Castner also photographed the African American community in New Jersey; a number of those photographs are included in the exhibition.

In 2019, the New Jersey State Museum received a donation of more than a thousand meticulously conserved glass plate negatives. The plates preserve pinpoint moments of everyday life in New Jersey at the turn of the 20th century, snapshots of our collective past. The exhibition is arranged by subject matter and includes railroads and canals; down the Shore; New Jerseyans at work; floods, fires and other disasters; and famous landmarks.

Further subjects include:

-The faces of New Jersey

-Railroads and canals

-Down the shore

-Leisure and recreation

-New Jerseyans at work

-Children and schools

-Famous landmarks

-Floods, fires and other disasters

-New Jersey Nature

Visit the exhibition to discover more about the life and works of Grant Castner and experience the full breadth of his talent as it transports you back in time to the New Jersey of days gone by. “Discovering Grant Castner” is supported in part by the New Jersey State Museum Foundation through the Lucille M. Paris Fund. The New Jersey State Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, 9:00 am to 4:45 pm; closed on all State holidays. General admission is free. For additional information visit www.statemuseum.nj.gov.

About the New Jersey State Museum

Located at 205 West State Street in Trenton, the New Jersey State Museum encompasses three buildings including a state-of-the-art Planetarium and holds over 2 million artifacts in its collections in Archaeology/Ethnography, Cultural History, Fine Art and Natural History. The New Jersey State Museum is a center for the exploration of science, history and the arts. We preserve and share stories that inspire curiosity and creativity for the enrichment of our communities.


About the New Jersey State Museum Foundation

The New Jersey State Museum Foundation was founded in 1968 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) to support the Museum’s collections, exhibitions and programs through fundraising, volunteerism, advocacy and marketing. In recent years, the Foundation has received generous support from the PNC Foundation, NJM Insurance Group, Department of State/New Jersey Historical Commission, New Jersey Council for the Humanities, The Henry Luce Foundation, The Capstone Foundation and Princeton Area Community Foundation. The Foundation also operates the Museum membership program, as well as the Museum Shop, which sells merchandise related to the Museum’s exhibitions and collections, and New Jersey history and culture. Proceeds support the New Jersey State Museum’s collections, exhibitions and programs.

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