Barbara McCandless, Curator of Photographic Collections at the Amon Carter Museum, Is Dead at 56

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Release date: 
November 5, 2005

Barbara McCandless, a curator at the Amon Carter Museum for 17 years, died on Saturday, Nov. 5, at a local hospital following a lengthy illness. McCandless came to the Carter in 1988 as Assistant Curator of Photographs. She was named Curator of Photographs in 1996 and Curator of Photographic Collections in 2002. Prior to joining the Carter, McCandless worked at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin as a research associate of the photography collection.

A memorial service will be held at the Amon Carter Museum on Saturday, December 3, at 11 a.m. The Museum has established the Barbara McCandless Photography Fund to honor her significant contributions to the Carter and her great love for American photography. Funds will be used to acquire works along the lines of her interests. Contributions to the Barbara McCandless Photography Fund may be sent to the museum.

“Barbara McCandless was an important member of our curatorial staff, and her accomplishments were many,” noted museum Director Rick Stewart. “We all enjoyed working with her, and her achievements here will not be forgotten. She was an important voice in the formation of the museum’s vast photography collection, and her extensive knowledge facilitated its management. In addition to this, Barbara was a wonderful person. All of us are deeply saddened by her untimely passing.”

Added John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs, “I will miss Barbara’s great passion for photography. She had an infectious enthusiasm and a professionalism that made her an effective advocate for the medium and a valuable colleague.”

At the Carter, McCandless helped to oversee one of the largest and most important photography collections in the country. The photographic fine art collection of 30,000 works includes some of the greatest American achievements by art ists such as Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Laura Gilpin, Carl Mydans, Eliot Porter, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Karl Struss and Minor White.

McCandless organized numerous photography exhibitions, including New York to Hollywood: Photographs by Karl Struss; Imagining the Open Range: Erwin E. Smith, Cowboy Photographer; and The Inner Spirit: Art of the American Avant-Garde, 1907--1920. She is the author of Equal before the Lens: Jno. Trlica’s Photographs of Granger, Texas (1992) and co-author of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (1991) and New York to Hollywood: The Photography by Karl Struss (1995). She also co-authored Singular Moments: Photographs from the Amon Carter Museum Collection (2001); An American Collection: Works from the Amon Carter Museum (2001); and Celebrating America: Masterworks from Texas Collections (2002).

During the museum’s recent building expansion, McCandless played instrumental roles in laying out the new galleries and storage spaces. She also contributed greatly to organizing the Carter’s extensive art ist archives and developing an acclaimed Web site on Erwin E. Smith.

The Carter also has McCandless to thank for her efforts in spearheading a number of important acquisitions, including landmark photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn, Edward Steichen, and Gordon Parks, as well as several works by Texas photographers including Peter Brown, Keith Carter, Earlie Hudnall Jr. and O. Rufus Lovett.

McCandless’ final triumph at the Carter was the recent exhibition Brent Phelps: Photographing the Lewis and Clark Trail. On view at the Carter September 25, 2004--January 2, 2005, the show received widespread critical acclaim and had the highest attendance of any exhibition that year.

McCandless was born on May 29, 1949, in Massachusetts. She graduated with a B.A. in anthropology from Syracuse University in 1971 and received an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 1987. She was a board member of the Texas Photographic Society from 1995 to 2001.