Janet Pritchard’s ‘More than Scenery’ captures the beauty and history of Yellowstone Park 

The first open night of the semester at the Benton features pet therapy, Taylor Swift open mic, and valentine card making. Photo by Izzy Barton/Daily Campus

On Thursday evening, the Benton Museum hosted a launch party celebrating the release of UConn Fine Arts professor Janet Pritchard’s book, “More than Scenery: Yellowstone, An American Love Story.” The event was held as part of the museum’s “Seeing Truth” exhibition programming.  

To start off, Pritchard said a few words about her project, before the floor opened up for some light discussion. There was a small table set up for the purchase and viewing of Pritchard’s book. Nearby, refreshing beverages and hors d’oeuvres were delicately set up for guests.  

The book itself was formatted in a near picture book style, Pritchard’s photographs being the focal point of her work. Although the book is far from a travel guide, many of the photos of nature and wildlife were compelling for a visit to Yellowstone National Park. One shot depicted a herd of bison grazing next to the road, which was taken from a bus window. The piece conveys the size and majesty of these mighty creatures, who stand six feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.  

The pictures were insistent on capturing the natural beauty of the park. A vast amount of scenic photographs illustrate the speechless landscapes of Yellowstone, filled with powerful waterfalls and stern mountain ranges that slope into gentle valleys.  

Many of her photographs are coupled with influential quotes from other authors or small informational anecdotes written by Pritchard. Although many of the images were of the incredible terrain of the park, some also documented Pritchard’s inspiration for the project, including one of a collection of vintage postcards by photographer F. Jay Haynes. 

In an interview, Pritchard expanded on her photograph of Gardner River, located near the Yellowstone entrance in Gardiner, Montana. When the river flooded last June, it destroyed parts of the road that bordered it, causing mass evacuations and prolonged closures. However, the chances of repairing the path are slim to none. 

“It’s not 100% — but it’s leaning heavily that way and it’ll probably happen — they are not going to build the canyon road again because they know that flooding is going to happen again,” Pritchard said. “500-year floods aren’t 500-year floods anymore.”   

Pritchard also explained how much of Yellowstone’s origin story is tied to the formation of the Northern Pacific Railroad. 

Following the Hayden Expedition of 1871, photographer William Henry Jackson and painter Thomas Moran gathered images and artwork of Yellowstone. 

“[Moran] brought back watercolor sketches, Jackson brought back photographs, they took them to D.C. and they said, ‘Here’s proof of the stories we’ve been hearing. These things are really there and they’re like nothing else we’ve ever seen,’” Pritchard said. “‘We need to protect this landscape.’” 

Jay Cooke, the financier of the railroad, realized he had an ideal destination for his project. He created brochures promoting the newly discovered Yellowstone, printed with the slogan, “Alice’s Adventures in the New Wonderland.” The materials are photographed in Pritchard’s book. 

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