The photographs in the collection were found in the attic of Marvin A. Gill's office building at Providence View Farm, by the Youth of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Fleeton, Virginia, and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Heathsville, Virginia, on April 13, 2002, while assisting with a project for the SAIF Water Committee.
There are approximately 120 portraits 16 inches by 20 inches in size. Most are in good condition, some are fragmented. Of the portraits, 81 appear to be of African-Americans and 39 of Caucasians.
Some of the enlarged portraits have a small original photograph and order envelope that identify the person who ordered the portrait and, sometimes, their village of residence. In some cases it is clear who is in the picture. The dates range from 1906 to 1917. There are additional small photographs.
The rectors of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Heathsville, St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Fleeton, St. Mary's Whitechapel Episcopal Church in Lively, the SAIF Water Committee, and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund have made it possible to properly preserve the collection. Internationally renowned photographer, Patricia Dalzell, is assisting in the preservation process. The Gill Collection has been photographed and placed on the SAIF Water website, www.saifwater.org, so that prints can be made by descendants.
The collection has been previewed with great excitement by staff of the Mary Ball Museum in Lancaster, Virginia, and faculty of the History Department at Howard University. Local residents and descendants will be interviewed to aid in positive identification of the photographs.
In addition to the photographs, Mr. Gill's copies of his enumerator's
record for the 1920 census were found, some record and sales books, a
number of prints/posters which still have vibrant colors, and several
copies of the 1913 edition of the Joseph Gay book: "Progress and
Achievements of the 20th Century Negro," which contains an extensive
collection of photographs. A copy of the Joseph Gay book has been given
to Howard University, where it has been placed in the Spingarn Collection.
The collection has been entrusted to the Reverend Gayl Fowler by Mr. Gill's
daughter, Barbara Gill.