Tucked away on a side street in Natick Center is a museum that many residents may have unknowingly wandered past. The Natick Vintage Camera Museum, located on the second floor of 5 Summer St., has been put together and curated by Scott Pressler. Scott began collecting cameras in his high school days as evidenced by a photo of him in his bedroom, antique cameras on the shelves behind him. Since then, he has found cameras at yard sales, antique stores, and even in trash bags. His collection eventually grew into what is now a public display of film cameras, pocket cameras, spy cameras, cameras that look like soda cans, Polaroids, film projectors, and a dozen other types of cameras.
Not all these cameras were part of the original collection, however. Scott opened the museum exclusively to display his own collection, but things quickly ramped up. What really tipped things over the edge was when WCVB’s Chronicle featured the museum in early 2019. Ever since, people looking to offload their own antique cameras have come in and either offered to hand them over or sell them to the collection. At this point, Scott has more cameras than he has display room, and more keep coming. It’s his hope that the collection can be taken on by a university or some other qualified organization. Scott says that he wants to see the cameras taken care of and preserved, something he feels he can’t do properly. Scott described himself as a caretaker for the cameras, not an owner, and it is his wish that the history they represent can be carried on, which he says can only be done by more qualified and dedicated professionals.
The museum opened shortly before the pandemic and was receiving a steady stream of visitors. Since it has reopened, there have been slightly fewer people coming to see the exhibit, but guests still come from as far away as the Cape. Admission is free, and it’s a very interesting display, with all sorts of cameras, which Scott seems to know all about. There is no glass in front of most of the displays, because Scott wants people to come and actually “pick up and interact with the cameras.” He said that he’s not worried about them being damaged, as they’re from a “rough and tumble era,” and that they would probably be fine if they were dropped.
One particularly interesting artifact was a Kodak instant camera, which was designed to print pictures on the fly. Polaroid was also interested in the camera, and thought that Kodak’s technology was a bit too similar to theirs, which had hit the market first. After a protracted legal battle, Polaroid was awarded $900 million from Kodak, and Kodak stopped making both instant cameras and their film. This wasn’t the only way a Polaroid has touched the museum, however. A donation of cameras was given to the museum by Marsha Haskell, who worked on creating Polaroid’s instant photo technology.
Not everything in the museum is a camera. Recently received was a box of glass slides from the 1880s, an early precursor to film. Images on the slides include portraits, and pictures of old boats.
Hopefully Scott’s wish of seeing his collection picked up by a museum comes true, but until then we urge you to go and check out this unique part of history in Natick.
PLACE: Natick Vintage Camera Museum
ADDRESS: 5 Summer Street, 2nd floor, Natick, MA 01760
HOURS: By appointment or by chance