ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Jean Curtze Carroll knew her parents had traveled to India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries during the 1960s and '70s and shot thousands of photographs of the people and landmarks they encountered.
What Carroll didn't know — for about 35 years — was the whereabouts of the enormous collection of images that unintentionally became part of an estate sale in 1977.
"I couldn't believe it when I got a call last summer from a student telling me they had the slides," said Carroll, 73, a retired Erie legal secretary. "I was just so excited."
Now 39 of those images have been transferred from slides to 11-by-14-inch prints and are on display at an exhibition that opened Thursday at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.
The work was completed by students under the direction of Chris Rolinson, a Point Park associate professor of photography and photojournalism.
Rolinson came across the collection in 2012 through James Murnane, a colleague who serves with him on the board of directors of the Braddock Carnegie Library.
Murnane had bought seven metal slide boxes from the Curtze family after Carroll and her sister moved their mother, Marie Curtze, out of her home and into Sarah Reed Retirement Center.
No one knew at the time that the boxes contained about 6,000 slides of images Marie and Alban Curtze had taken while traveling around the world.
Among them are photos of the two riding donkeys around active volcanoes, taking elephant rides in the Far East and stuck on a mountainside for three days during a blizzard near the Pakistani-Afghan border, along with about 1,200 images from the 1972 trip that make up the current exhibit, which Rolinson has titled "Silk Road."
"I think what really makes the exhibit interesting, for one thing, is that was not your typical family vacation in the early 1970s," said Rolinson, 39. "At the time, Afghanistan probably wasn't accessible to a lot of people in terms of being able to afford to travel there and spend the amount of time they spent. And the second thing is that the images are really very good quality. I would say the majority are sharp and clear and in focus, and the subjects are interesting."
The shots range from a billboard warning travelers that "photography of defence installations and tribal women folk is prohibited" to several pictures of the region's famed Buddhist statues, many of which were later destroyed by the Taliban.
Rolinson said there are about 4,000 more slides in the collection from other trips, and he plans to have his students curate them over the next few years, possibly leading to additional exhibitions.
He also has three 1960s-era Nikon F series cameras that the Curtzes used during their travels and that the family donated to Point Park.
"When we started out, all we had was the Curtze last name and the slides," said Rolinson, who learned of the collection when Murnane mentioned something to him in January 2012. "My students eventually were able to track down Jean in Erie, and they've done a lot of work to pull this together."
Carroll planned to travel this past week to the exhibit at Point Park's Lawrence Hall. She called it a fitting tribute to her parents. Alban Curtze, who died in 1976, practiced law in Erie for decades. Marie Curtze, who died in 1993, was an artist.
Carroll said the two used to show images from their trips to friends and small groups in Erie using a slide projector. Typically, she said, Alban Curtze's images were more straightforward and journalistic, while Marie Curtze's tended to be artistic.