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Photos: Cokato portrait photographer's work illuminates the era

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Mother and child portrait
Mother and child portrait, date unknown: The child is looking at the photographer, who is getting him to smile with some sort of puppet.
Gust Akerlund | Cokato Museum

Historians in Cokato, Minn., are almost finished digitizing over 14,000 images captured by photographer Gust Akerlund, many of them on glass plate negatives. 

In 1902, Akerlund purchased a photography studio in Cokato. 

For the next 50 years, Akerlund took photographs that documented the people and the history of the community. His studio, which has been preserved as a museum, is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is now part of the Cokato Museum.

Mike Worcester, director of the museum, said the photographs illustrate Akerlund's talent for capturing images that showed people as they really lived.

"If you were a traveling musician who was black who played the banjo, he took your photo because it didn't matter to him," Worcester said. "His goal was to capture on film the community and it didn't matter who in the community you were."