When Nicholas Whitman began photographing the abandoned Sprague Electric Company plant in North Adams, Massachusetts in 1988, he did not know that it would be recycled and reborn as an art museum. Rather, he was photographing an important part of his family’s history. Whitman’s father worked as an engineer at Sprague for 26 years, and Nicholas himself worked a summer job in the factory before going to college. As the plant lay abandoned and rotting in the late 1980s, he received permission to go inside and photograph, and then when the mill was renovated, he documented its evolution.
Whitman’s photographs provide the visual basis for MASS MOCA: From Mill to Museum, a handbook for historians, architects, museum planners, and civic leaders interested in neighborhood revitalization. The artist is also the author of A Window Back: Photography in a Whaling Port which features a compelling selection of images chosen from more than 20,000 photographs stored in the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts.