Don't call Rell Francis a pack rat. The Utah County educator, writer and artist-photographer prefers the term preservationist.
And the more than 10,000 glass negatives Francis has used to make prints from early Utah photographer George Edward Anderson attest to his earnest quest in keeping history alive in photos.Upon entering Francis' east Springville home, visitors may wonder if they have stepped into the equivalent of an early 20th century photo gallery and museum.
"This is Rell's Relic Hall," Francis says. The basement could best be described as organized chaos, as hundreds of photographs adorn the walls, desks, tables and any available space that can be found. An enlarger sits in one corner and boxes of photography supplies are scattered elsewhere.
Francis began aggressively pursuing the delicate art of restoring photographs in 1973 and is considered one of the best photo-historians around.
Working with original glass negatives of varying sizes, Francis has restored - or touched-up, as he calls it - about 500 of Anderson's photos, and has done extensive research about the photographer and his work thanks to meticulous record keeping by Elfie Huntington, Anderson's assistant.
Francis said he estimates Anderson may have photographed as many as 30,000 images, setting up studios in Springville and Manti, and as he traveled to England, Canada and parts of the western United States.
The LDS Church has since cataloged a great deal of Anderson's work, using more modern methods than finding space for the large 14-inch by 17-inch glass negatives.
As an art and English teacher for Nebo School District in Springville and Payson schools, Francis taught from 1955 to 1977. He was also a temporary director for the Springville Museum of Art in 1976.
Perhaps best known as an expert on Anderson's photography, Francis also has extensive expertise and research with Springville-native sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin who lived from 1861 to 1944.
Among Dallin's works are the Angel Moroni for LDS temples, sculptures of Paul Revere, Lafayette, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and Chief Massasoite from the Wampanogas tribe who met early American colonizers in the 1600s.
This past spring, Francis was a guest lecturer at the Rockwell Museum in Corning, N.Y., as the museum featured an exhibit of the Dallin's works in small bronze and plasters.
Francis has also published what some have called the definitive biography on Dallin, entitled "Cyrus E. Dallin: Let Justice Be Done," published by the Utah Bicentennial Commission in 1976.
The Lake Shore native has won numerous awards, has had exhibits presented in Italy, Texas and throughout Utah and has published several books on the subject of photography and sculpture.
Francis is married to Janet Oaks and they have three children: Sean, Lewis and Dana.