Two Videos and Two Speeches
In Honor of Dr. Clinton C. Millett (1910-1964)
Today, November 7, 2009, I post two videos and two speeches honoring the legacy of my Dad, Dr. Clinton C. Millett.
The first video (14 minutes) documents his 17-day crossing of the Ledo-Burma Road. On this journey he led the 172nd U.S. Army General Hospital Convoy from Ledo, India to Kunming, China. The video consists of excerpts from his letters home and photographs of the journey.
Crossing the Ledo-Burma Road
The second video (18 minutes) is a Chinese Television program (documentary/interview) that tells the story of the return, in 2004, of Dr. Millett's 1945 colored photographs of Kunming, China. It contains Chinese and English with the translations being made by Frank Guo.
Return of the Old Kunming Photographs
Tomorrow, November 8, 2009, a group of nine travelers from the USA leave for Kunming, China to attend a Centennial exhibition of colored photographs of China. The following two speech scripts (requested by the Municipal Government of Kunming) explain this mission:
A Colorful Connection with
by Gregg Millett
Mayor Zhang Zulin and honorable members of the Municipal Government of Kunming and all of you gathered here today:
I bring you greetings from the Mayor of Schenectady, New York -- Brian U. Stratton.
Five years ago, in May 2004, I was here in Kunming welcoming you to the exhibition of my father's colored photographs of Kunming. My father, Dr. Clinton Millett was a US Army doctor. He led a hospital convoy across the Burma Road and served in Kunming until the end of World War II. While here he took the earliest known colored photographs of China (right here in Kunming). And these photographs are now at the National Museum of China. Many of you know about this because there was a lot of press coverage of the exhibition and 300,000 Kunming citizens came to the exhibition.
Now I am here today welcoming you to another exhibition of color photographs of China. How did this happen?
In English there is an expression -- "finding a needle in a haystack" -- that means if you have a big stack of hay, and there is a needle in it, your chances of finding the needle (or the thing you are looking for) is very small. In 2004 I sent e-mails to every address in Kunming that I could find on the internet -- and I got an answer back which said, "I can help you." It was great luck that I found my "needle in a haystack," and his name is Mr. Jin Fei Bao.
Mr. Jin Fei Bao organized the 2004 exhibition and welcomed me and my granddaughter, Krystal, to Kunming. Then he organized a second Kunming exhibition, wrote a book on my Dad's old photographs and the history of the times -- a time when the bombing of Kunming was stopped by the Flying Tigers and the US and China stood shoulder to shoulder in the war. Then Fei Bao took the old photographs to the Pingyao International Photography Exhibition and to the National Museum of China. While he was doing all of this he also climbed Mt. Everest, the highest mountains on the other six continents, skied to the North and South Poles and crossed the Sahara Dessert in Africa!
But back to this exhibition! How did it happen? In 2005 Jin Fei Bao and his wife Li Jia came to visit us in America. During their visit Fei Bao gave a speech at our Schenectady Museum in New York. His speech was given to the US-China Peoples Friendship Association which was holding its National Convention in Schenectady and the Schenectady Museum was also having an exhibition of my Dad's 1945 photographs. The day after Fei Bao's speech we got a call from the Schenectady Museum. They told us that they had some colored glass slide photographs of China in their archives that we might be interested in seeing. So the next day we went to the museum and inspected the photographs. Fei Bao shook his head and said, "My goodness, this is another treasure!"
The photographs from this collection were taken during Harry Ostrander's four trips to China, many of them from his first trip in 1911. In the summer he would travel the world and in the winter he gave presentations all over the United States. His photographs were black and white but he had them hand painted -- which was a very highly developed craft of the times. Then the glass slides were shown by a projector known as a Magic Lantern. Harry Ostrander gave more than 4,000 presentations in the US during his career. Before radio, television, movies and the internet, this was the way that the people in the US learned about China.
I'll tell you one short story about the photographer Harry Ostrander, that was discovered by his great niece, Gail Bundy.
Over one hundred thirty years ago in a rural in Seneca County, New York, USA, a seven year old school boy opened a new geography book. Leafing through the woodcut illustrations, he became entranced with the drawing of a Chinese boy about his own age. The Chinese boy was wearing a curled-up hat, and he stood in front of a house with a curled-up roof. As that young New York boy studied the picture over and over, he wanted to know everything he could about that Chinese boy and about that Chinese house and about the country where the Chinese boy lived. And so, Harry Clark Ostranders curiosity about the world outside his small rural village began to grow
Since we found Harry Ostander glass slides at the Schenectady Museum, I have been exploring the history of early photographs of China, and I have been collecting glass slides, cameras, magic lanterns, stereoviews and early motion pictures. In this search I have been helped by the Schenectady Museum, The Magic Lantern Society of the United States of Canada, The Edison/Steinmetz Center in Schenectady, the New York State Museum in Albany, New York and private collectors of glass slides, Rob Oeschle from Okinawa and Tom Rall from Philadelpia, Pennsylvania.
The results of my search are on display at this "Centennial Exhibiton."
Before I finish I want to introduce the people who have come with me on this historic visit:
First my granddaughter, Krystal, who came with me to the 2004 exhibition, and has come from her home in the state of Alaska.
My nephew, Jesse, who came here to live with Fei Bao and Li Jia for six months after the 2004 exhibition; returned to the US and changed his college studies to Chinese history and language; then studied for a semester at the University of Yunnan; then taught English for a year in Daqing in the Province of Heilongjiang, and has come here overland from Malaya, Thailand and Laos.
Jesse's mother Kathleen -- who is here to share this experience with her son, with our group and with all of you.
Gail Bundy, a great niece of the photographer Harry Ostrander. Gail comes from New York and is now doing research on the life of her Great Uncle. It is Gail's family that gave the colored glass slide collection of Harry Ostrander to the Schenectady Museum.
Marilyn Barrett, also a great niece of Harry Ostrander. Marilyn comes from Boston, Massachusetts and teaches school on an island off the east coast of the US named Nantucket.
Mara Shapiro is a nurse-midwife and comes from Denver, Colorado. She brings greetings to Kunming from Denver, which is a sister-city with Kunming, and upon her return to Denver she will give a full report on this trip to the Denver Sister-Cities organization.
Neil Levine is a past president of the Schenectady Museum and one of the community leaders in Schenectady and the Capital District of New York which not only includes Schenectady, but also the cities of Albany, Troy and Saratoga.
And finally, Kerry Orlyk. Kerry is the Executive Director of our Schenectady Museum and without her support we would not be holding this wonderful exhibition.
I will finish by saying: I believe my father's photographs began a heart-felt connection between the people of Kunming and the people in Schenectady. I hope this exhibition, and our visit, will extend and deepen these connections. I hope we establish a sister-city relationship between Kunming and Schenectady and I have a document here, signed by Mayor Zhang Zulin and Mayor Brian U. Statton, which is a first step in this relationship.
I hope that long after I am gone, people from Schenectady will be taking colorful photographs of Kunming and that people from Kunming will be taking colorful photographs of Schenectady and that we will build many bridges of friendship between our cities and between our countries.
I "tip my hat" to my father and I welcome you to the exhibition. Thank you.
Two nations, one Goal
by Kerry Orlyk
My name is Kerry Orlyk and I am the Executive Director of Schenectady
Museum & Planetarium located in the home of Thomas Edison, Schenectady New
York United States of America. I am honored to represent the Museum on this
once in a lifetime opportunity, along with Neil Levine, our President Emeritus
and leader of the Museum's master plan to become a world class science center.
When our Museum first received the photograph collection of Harry Ostrander in 2004, we knew we had received a treasure. The slides show the details of Harry Ostrander' visits to many countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa. The thousands of slides show Harry Ostrander's interest in world culture and a desire to learn more about other people and share that knowledge with others. He did not just photograph landmarks like many tourists do. He spent a long time with everyday people in the countries he visited, taking photographs of them and trying to understand their daily lives, without any bias or preconceived notions. This is the treasure of Harry Ostrander's photographs. He spent more than 40 years sharing these images in cities both big and small across the United States, talking about his travels and sharing his knowledge at not only some of the largest museums in the world, such as ones in New York City, but also the libraries in the small farming towns that still make up an important part of the United States today.
Harry Ostrander's lifetime goal was to share his images with others. We at the Schenectady Museum are honored to share these treasures with the people of China and help fulfill that goal.
We hope that these rare colored glass slide images help to increase the friendship between China and the United States and especially Kunming and Schenectady, helping to build a bridge across which friendships - personal, governments, business, and invention can be explored and developed.
These photographs are just a small portion of our total collection at the Schenectady Museum, which has one of the largest photograph collections in the world. We have over 1.6 million photographs, including many photographs of Thomas Edison and other inventors who helped create new technologies and made them available to all people. The Museum's photographs help show how a global economy develops; that even more than 100 years ago Edison's inventions were finding their way to China almost as soon as they were invented. Light bulbs to give guidance at night, power generators to create electricity for homes, businesses and public buildings; and even large locomotives to carry passengers and freight on China's railways all made an impact on China, and the entire world, and helped make Thomas Edison an important figure in world history.
The Schenectady Museum's mission is to inspire a sense of wonder about extraordinary scientific and technological developments: past, present and future. We hope to inspire the future Thomas Edison's of the world, be it in Schenectady or China. We hope the images of Harry Ostrander and the technology of the magic lantern inspire children in China and in the United States to become great inventors. Who knows, the next Thomas Edison may be in this room today.
On behalf of the Schenectady Museum, the Harry Ostrander family,
and especially Gregg Millett and Jin Fei Bao who orchestrated this entire excursion,
thank you for your gracious and memorable welcoming and spectacular display
of these rare treasures.