How Argus Camera put Depression recovery in its viewfinder

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explores the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.


Founded back in 1987, the Argus Museum’s displays feature products manufactured by the Argus Camera Company and tells the stories of the company, the people involved and showcases unique collections connected to Argus. Our collections include a wide range of photography and radio equipment, military artifacts, photographs and documents associated with the company. The Museum is housed in the Argus I Building, which was one of the company’s manufacturing facilities, and operates under the umbrella of the Washtenaw County Historical Society.

The community of the Argus Museum is actually several different communities and includes local and regional artists, photographers in particular, historians, some local, collectors of photographs and/or photography equipment, families of former Argus employees, and employees themselves – there’s a few still among us. I am not exaggerating that our community extends all around the world.

Our events, both in-person and virtual, bring these communities together. The artists’ receptions, generally, bring together the most eclectic group. Besides the artists themselves and their family and friends, museum members, local residents and those interested in that particular show/theme are among those who attend. Our annual fall conference adds to that mix with collectors, historians and Argus families. While the past two years conferences have been virtual and logistically somewhat challenging, we have maintained the art aspect in the way of presentations given by photographers who talk about techniques and processes, history and their images. Our recent presenters’ ages range from eleven to eighty.

We host both solo exhibitions and group shows – many of the groups exhibit with us annually or bi-annually and include Wayne State University Students, Huron River Art Collective and the Crappy Camera Club. The exhibitions have explored themes such as condemned housing, Polaroids of Vietnam, portraits, alternative and historical processes and techniques, hometown images – a wide variety of themes. Partnering with CameraMall, in 2020, commemorating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, we collaborated with Camera mall and hosted a virtual photography exhibition titled “How Far Have We Come?” Photographers were asked to examine the challenges that women and other dis-enfranchised people face.

Local businesses have sponsored and supported our events – Besides CameraMall, Argus Farm Stop (Bill Brinkerhoff’s father was an Argus VP.), Found and Zingermans – just to name a few – have supported our events.

While we really miss our in-person events, we hope to reinstate them this summer, and to hold our annual conference in-person this fall September 29-October 2. A virtual option will likely be available too.

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