Category Archives: Research

Art Tracks: Parties, Marriage, and Provenance


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War Bride by Clarence Holbrook Carter, 1940 © Estate of Clarence Carter. Photo Credit: Richard Stoner.

Things said infrequently to the Curator of Fine Arts: “We need to talk about marriage.”

As we begin Art Tracks, one of the first tasks is identifying each person, or party, who was involved in the transfer, movement, and custody of an artwork before it came to Carnegie Museum of Art.

Then we have to build a timeline of each party’s movements over their lifetime, and associate a distinct location identifier for each movement. Currently, we’re using Geonames as our authority, though the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN) just became linked-open-data. Using an authority helps us be explicit that we’re talking about the Paris in France, and not Paris, Ontario, Paris, Texas, or Paris, Togo. Continue reading

On This Day: The Legacy of A. Philip Randolph


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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Labor Day celebration honoring A. Philip Randolph (waving from balcony of Civic Arena), surrounded by clergy, Lower Hill District, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 4, 1967, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.3994 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive.

On this day in September 1967, labor leader and civil rights pioneer A. Philip Randolph was honored during a Labor Day Mass at the Civic Arena, where Bishop John Wright presented him with an award for his outstanding leadership in a distinguished career that spanned more than half a century. Photographer Teenie Harris was in attendance that day, covering the event for the Pittsburgh Courier, when he captured this stark black-and-white image of Randolph being welcomed by a delegation of clergy from the Pittsburgh region and beyond. Continue reading

What Does It Mean for a Museum To Be Truly Experimental?


Screenshot of the Hillman Photography Initiative website, launched April 2014.

Screenshot of the Hillman Photography Initiative website, launched April 2014

Ever since Carnegie Museum of Art launched the Hillman Photography Initiative earlier this year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means for a museum to be truly experimental. When I began my research three years ago, the major premise of the Initiative was to create something totally new in the field of photography. On the other side of a successful launch, I now realize just how ambitious our goal was. But at the time, it felt more like an amorphous challenge, albeit one that had all my problem-solving neurons firing. As with any experiment, we didn’t have a clear understanding of how the Initiative would manifest or what form it would take. Now that the project is up and running, I find myself looking back at how the Initiative was realized and some of the things we’ve learned so far. Continue reading

Frances Benjamin Johnston in Charleston


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Frances Benjamin Johnston, self-portrait, in her Washington, D.C., studio, 1896.

I recently spent a few days in Charleston, South Carolina, researching and revisiting sites photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston. In the Heinz Architectural Collection there are 25 photographs by Johnston, an early female photojournalist and later in life a documentary photographer. Johnston’s interest in photographing buildings was mainly for preservation purposes. Her goal was to document the buildings should they be torn down, but also to inspire communities to preserve or restore the historic edifices if possible. The photographs in our collection represent houses, storefronts, and architectural details around the historic downtown Charleston area. The set was displayed in 1937 at the Gibbes Art Gallery, now the Gibbes Art Museum, and will be on view in the Heinz Architectural Center in the upcoming exhibition Architecture + Photography.

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Frances Benjamin Johnston, 148 Queen Street, Charleston, S.C., 1937, gelatin silver print. This image is one of the thousands of photographs taken by Johnston in the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South.

Johnston donated most of her archive to the Library of Congress. Part of the archive includes the original photographs of the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, a multi-year endeavor to photograph buildings from Maryland to Louisiana.

During my research trip I revisited the sites in Johnston’s photographs in an attempt to recreate the scene as much as possible. Many of the buildings in our set of 25 photographs are still standing, but a few are empty lots, or are completely unrecognizable. Below are some comparisons between Johnston’s images from 1937 and some from the recent trip.

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Market Hall, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Doorway at 32 Charlotte Street, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Parish House, Congregational Church, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Town Houses, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013