LEWISTON — The Androscoggin River is spreading well beyond its banks.

Two Bowdoin College professors behind “A River Lost and Found: The Androscoggin River in Time and Place” have gallery shows lined up across the country through winter. Their project pairs oral histories and modern images shot with an old-fashioned twist. One upcoming exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art will include a talk by two visiting scholars and a peek at the ambrotype process.

Michael Kolster‘s art also is highlighted this month in an eight-page spread in Loupe, the Journal of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University.

Kolster, an associate professor of art, and Matthew Klingle, an associate professor of history and environmental studies, started the project more than a year ago.

Kolster took photos of the Androscoggin River using a pre-Civil-War-era technology to create ambrotypes, glass plates with an imperfect, sepia-toned, olden-day look.

“The Androscoggin stands for and is sort of a model for the rivers across the country — Muskie’s river,” Kolster said.


“A River Lost and Found” examines its past and present and offers comparisons to the James River in Virginia and Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania.

Kolster’s prints and ambrotypes and Klinge’s narrative writing and oral histories will be part of a show at Bowdoin College Museum of Art beginning July 14.

It’s a rare thing for Bowdoin’s own professors to be featured there, Kolster said, and it’s being paired with a show by photographer William Wegmen, whose exhibit, “Hello Nature,” features his famous Weimaraners out and about in Maine.

A website for the river project went live Friday.

In one essay on the site, Klingle called the Androscoggin “a river of contradictions. The Maine Office of Tourism website touts the ‘Upper Andro’ north of Bethel as one of New England’s outstanding trout streams . . . Above Bethel, the river wears Patagonia Gore-Tex jackets bedecked with hand-tied flies; below, it sports Cabela’s baseball caps and fluorescent plastic lures.”

He said, “I think it speaks about the stereotypes people have of the river, but I think the stereotypes are more complicated.”


It’s not pollution-free above, nor is it a dead zone below.

On Sept. 6, Princeton University history Professor Martha A. Sandweiss and Anne Whiston Spirn, a professor of landscape architecture and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will lead a talk at Bowdoin about the project in an event open to the public. That same week, Kolster plans a demonstration on how to make ambrotypes.

“We are very, very psyched (at the exposure),” Kolster said. “It confirms for me this feeling that the current status and possibly future status of our rivers is something other people are thinking about, too.”

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Upcoming shows for “A River Lost and Found: The Androscoggin River in Time and Place“:

* Bowdoin College Museum of Art, July 13 – Sept. 16


The show will feature prints, ambrotypes, oral histories and a “story booth” for the public to share river memories. On Sept. 6, two visiting scholars will lead a talk on the project in conjunction with an open house.

* 621 Gallery, Tallahassee, Fla., Oct. 5-28

* Tony Hungerford Gallery, College of Southern Maryland, Nov. 13 – Dec. 15

* SRO Gallery, Texas Tech School of Art, Jan. 14 – Feb. 10

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