There is even more to a big picture than what meets the eye. For starters, who prints the photograph and how, how is it mounted, and then how is it safely transported, stored, and preserved?
When a photographer or artist decides on a large format for his/her photograph, the negative or digital file is often sent to be printed by a professional printing studio with appropriately large printers. The studio will print and often fully mount the photograph onto a rigid support to minimize physical distortion experienced by the print while in transit and/or on display.
Then there is the question of how one safely transports such a large object. Custom crates are made, placed on a truck (or airplane) with controlled air conditioning and relative humidity, as well as lifted air suspension for a smoother ride, and then chaperoned by professional art movers and museum couriers all the way to the work's final destination.
Once at the museum, crates require room for storage, and the art work must be moved by multiple staff members on an A-frame cart.
As more and more artists print big, new demands are set on museum storage space. Photographs may be stored upright, as imaged below, or in over-sized, horizontal map cases.
Finally, art conservators face new challenges. For example, they are charged with the task of staying well educated about ever-changing mounting adhesives, substrate materials, and printing technologies. When working with large objects, conservators need a large working space, additional lighting equipment, and a different setup for photo documentation. And often times, conservators have to get creative-altering traditional conservation approaches to make them appropriate for big pictures.
One of the great pleasures of being an archivist at an art museum is getting the chance to deal with manuscript materials. It is archival collections that contain the letters, diaries, scrapbooks, etc. that document an artist's life and work. It allows a researcher first-hand access to the artist. So, with great excitement, we recently had the opportunity to acquire, through the generosity of Charles Smith, the archive of Kelly Fearing.
Fearing was part of the Fort Worth Circle of Artists, primarily active in the 1940s and 1950s, who brought modernist ideas and techniques to the Fort Worth area. The Fearing archive has manuscript material spanning his Fort Worth period on into his later distinguished artistic and educational career at the University of Texas at Austin. The archive, once organized, will allow researchers to delve into Fearing's art, associations, and the milieu he worked in. It joins other private papers and records at the Amon Carter, including Fort Worth Circle artists Bror Utter, Marjorie Johnson Lee, Flora and Dickson Reeder, and Blanche McVeigh.
Photo Above: Unprocessed Kelly Fearing Papers
The National Art Education Association's annual conference starts Thursday in Fort Worth and we're thrilled to have our colleagues come to Cowtown to collaborate on art education topics.
We invite all of our NAEA friends to come on over to the Amon Carter and stop into the bookstore for a welcome bag (just show them your conference badge) and our best wishes for a great conference!
Big news! Starting this week on March 2, the research library will offer Saturday hours, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., September through May, to accommodate researchers who are not able to visit us during the work week. A reference librarian will be available in our beautiful reading room to help with your research projects. We also offer free Wi-Fi and digital scanning. Photocopy service available for a charge.
The library offers access to a collection of 140,000 items documenting the rich history of art, photography, and culture in the United States, with holdings of many rare items, including unique archival collections. We rotate a selection of some of this special material in exhibitions in the reading room. Please stop by on Saturday and let us introduce you to our fascinating collection.
Wednesday: 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m.–4 p.m., September through May
Other times by appointment
Jason Dean, Cataloger & Technical Services Librarian at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (and previously a volunteer at the research library here at the Amon Carter), recently told the fascinating story of The North American Sylva; or, a Description of the Forest Trees of the United States, Canada, and Nova Scotia . . . This signal illustrated botanical work by François André Michaux (1770–1855) and Thomas Nuttall (1786–1859) stands as the most important study of American trees before the twentieth century, offering an unparalleled record of species growing in the United States and Canada during the period. As Jason points out, this work not only combines the research of both authors but also offers the opportunity to study two different illustration techniques: early engravings (with hand-coloring) based on illustrations by the famous French flower painter Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759–1840) and later hand-colored lithographs. Crystal Bridges has the 1841 edition (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, 1841) while the Amon Carter has the 1859 edition (Philadelphia: D. Rice & A. N. Hart, 1859). The Amon Carter's copy was acquired on the occasion of Ruth Carter Stevenson’s 80th birthday.
Late last year the research library acquired an intriguing photobook published by Phaidon Press, Stephen Shore's The Book of Books. Starting in the early 2000s, Shore produced a series of print-on-demand photobooks using Apple's iPhoto publishing service. Between 2003 and 2010, he produced eighty-three of these books which were made available in limited editions via various galleries. The Book of Books reproduces all these books in a two volume slipcased set, also in a limited edition (250 numbered copies), print-on-demand format. Get your mind around that! Currently, only two libraries in the country have a copy of this beautiful set of books. Please drop by the research library to take a closer look!
A recent story by Susan Schulten on Fast Company's design blog, Co.Design, highlights the work of Francis Walker, superintendent of the nation's 1870 census. Walker was a pioneering data cruncher and graphic designer, and he's credited with his work on the census, wringing intelligence out of the massive amount of data gathered about the country into a clear, graphic form. As it turns out, the museum's research library has a copy of his Statistical Atlas of the United States Based on the Results of the Ninth Census, 1870 .... This folio volume, lithographed by New York printer Julius Bien, a popular printer of government documents and map maker of the period, predates the current infographic craze by a long period and is all the more amazing given that its production was by mechanical and hand means alone. Please come by to view the volume in the research library reading room. We also have copy of Schulten's Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-century America.
Some of you may have heard today's interview with Leonard Volk by Kris Boyd on KERA 90.1's Think. As the interview reveals, much of Volk's picture-taking technique and philosophy are embodied in the photographer's new book, Everyday, which includes a selection of images from the photographer's career along with insightful essays. If any of you want to view the book, we have a copy available in the research library.
Photo 1: State Hermitage Museum and Alexander Column on Palace Square.
Just before the holidays, our conservator of photographs Sylvie Pénichon visited the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia where she taught a workshop on contemporary photographs. The course was part of the Hermitage Photograph Conservation Initiative funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) (http://cool.conservation-us.org/photo-ru/). The goal of this initiative is to foster the exchange of ideas among Russian, French, and American colleagues, and to help establish a department of photograph conservation at the State Hermitage Museum.
The course reviewed the trends and challenges of collecting contemporary photographs, including process identification, mounting techniques, and materials used by photographers today, as well as current museum practice for exhibition and storage of contemporary photographs. One of the highlights of Pénichon’s visit was to witness the inauguration of the new offsite storage facility center, which will host the museum’s conservation facilities and storage vaults. Located in the Staraya Derevnja neighborhood, the new facility is readily accessible by subway. Transfer of most of the Hermitage’s collections (roughly 2.5 million items) to the new facility will begin in 2013.
Photo 2: View of the new storage and conservation facility in Staraya Derevnja.
Photo 3: Tatyana Sayatina, Head of the Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Photographic Materials, proudly shows the new cold storage unit where the photograph collection will soon be stored.
Photo 4: The Avtovo subway station platform. Just one of the many beautiful stations constructed during the Soviet era, likely to make any commuter feel like royalty.