Moved to its current location in 1905 by its main proprietor August (Gust) Akerlund, the Gust Akerlund Photography Studio is on the National Register of Historic Places. The award-winning site is fully restored and includes Akerlund's original furnishings, cameras, equipment, negative collection, and a 12-foot skylight. It is the only studio of its kind in the Upper Midwest and possibly one of the few left in the entire nation. Stop by the Cokato Museum and ask us for a tour of the Akerlund Studio!
August Bernard (Gust) Akerlund was a Swedish immigrant who moved to Cokato in 1902 after purchasing the Fred Hanson Photography Studio. Except for a brief interlude when Akerlund left the photography business to become an automobile mechanic and visit his family in Sweden, Akerlund captured Cokato and the surrounding area with his photography until he retired in 1953 at the age of 80. Dubbed as one of Cokato's "most interesting persons" by the 1954 Cokato Enterprise, Akerlund was one of the first people in town to own a radio and an automobile. His studio was also a gathering place for people in the community. After Akerlund's passing in 1954, his legacy was remembered thanks to his wife Ester and son Ted.
Opened to the public since 1986, the Gust Akerlund Photography Studio is a snapshot into not only the life of a small town photographer, but also early 20th century photography. The building includes the essentials to many early photography studios, including the equipment needed to process glass-plate negatives to print. The studio building is also comprised of a waiting room, dressing room, posing room, work room, and dark room. Today, photographers can still use the studio for sessions. If interested in touring or using the studio, read this or ask the Cokato Museum staff for more details.
The attached apartment and Akerlund's family are the reason why his story and the building with all of its contents survived. Built in 1935, the apartment created a cozy family home for Akerlund, his wife, and their son. In fact, it was still a private residence when the Akerlund Studio was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. In 1984, the Akerlund family donated the studio to the museum and the City of Cokato.
The Gust Akerlund Negative Collection includes 14,019 negatives. Of these negatives 11,552 are dry glass plates, 1,947 are acetates, and 520 are nitrates. Although a large portion of the Akerlund collection are portraits, he also took photographs of schools, businesses, churches, farms, houses, accidents, and special events. In 2017, Dave Johnson and the Cokato Museum finished the digitization of the Akerlund negatives. Thanks to a generous donation, the digitized negatives will be available for the public to browse through at the Cokato Museum in the near future. Reprints are available at a nominal cost.