P.E.I. man breathes new life into historic photos

Earle MacDonald might be retired but he says his hobby of restoring old photos of P.E.I. is keeping him busy.

'It's almost like finding a new photo in an attic'

Earle MacDonald has made a hobby of restoring photos like this one, which shows the residence and front gardens of architect David Sterling on Water Street in 1894. Photo edited by Earle MacDonald. (Public Archives and Records Office of P.E.I., [H.B. Sterling fonds, H. B. Sterling, Acc3218/90])

Earle MacDonald says his hobby of restoring old photos of P.E.I. is keeping him busy during retirement. 

"It's really more enjoyment for me more than work," he said.

MacDonald said he got the idea from a Facebook group that was posting old photos of the Island, but the quality of the images were affected by scratches, creases and dark spots.

Women's pairs badminton being played on an outdoor court, believed to be in Souris, sometime between 1915-1930. Photo edited by Earle MacDonald. (Public Archives and Records Office of P.E.I., Morley Acorn fonds, Morley Acorn, Acc3466/HF74.285.3 )

"[It] takes away your view of the actual picture," MacDonald said.

About 7,000 photos restored

That's when he decided to take it upon himself to old photos.

Over the last five years, MacDonald estimated he's fixed up about 7,000 photos, most of them from old P.E.I. postcards, or from the provincial Public Records and Archives.

A view of the ferry dock at Wood Islands, crowded with people on a Sunday afternoon in 1949. Photo edited by Earle MacDonald. (Public Archives and Records Office of P.E.I., [Ship and ferry photograph collection, Acc2327/17])

"A lot of photos from the archives, they're kind of dark, it's hard to see them," he said. "I put them in Photoshop, and I lighten them up so people can see them better and it's almost like finding a new photo in an attic," he said.

"I just love history."

Sharing a love of history

Once he restores the photos, MacDonald shares them to his own Facebook page which has over 7,000 likes. 

"The thing that I look forward to is the people that comment on it and they thank me for posting it," he said. "That's the enjoyment I get from doing my hobby."

Cars on the Abegweit ferry in the late 1940s. Photo edited by Earle MacDonald. (Public Archives and Records Office of P.E.I., [Mr. G. Garnham collection, Acc2669/26])

MacDonald has been sent photos as far away as New Zealand to restore, and said there's no plans to quit his hobby any time soon.

"As long as I can find new pictures," he said.

About the Author

Nicole Williams

Nicole Williams is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. She previously worked as an associate producer with CBC News in Toronto.