Clarence Ward Archive (National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections)

National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections

Cathedrale Notre Dame; Exterior; from railroad bridge, 12th-15th centuries. Bayeux. Image and data from Clarence Ward Archive, National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections

The Department of Image Collections at the National Gallery of Art is a study and research center for images of Western art and architecture. In 2004, two visual resources departments, the Slide Collection (founded in 1941) and the Photograph Collection (founded in 1943) were merged to form a single department. Together, the combined collections now comprise almost 10 million photographs, slides, negatives, microform images. The Photograph Collection alone contains more than 9.6 million images, documenting European and American art and architecture. Two archives from the Photograph Collection have been digitized and are now available in Artstor: the Clarence Ward Archive and the Foto Reali Archive.

The Clarence Ward Archive focuses on French Medieval architecture and American architecture and consists of over 6000 large-format nitrate negatives. These negatives were the product of photographic campaigns undertaken by Clarence Ward (1884-1973) during the 1920s and 1930s, with the assistance of Arthur Princehorn (1904-2001), staff photographer at Oberlin College. Ward himself was a distinguished professor of art history at Oberlin College, as well as the founder of the college's Art Library and the first director of the campus museum, the Allen Memorial Art Museum. In addition to pursing his scholarly interests in Medieval French and American architecture, Ward was a practicing architect, who designed a number of buildings in the Oberlin community. Since Ward conducted his French photographic campaigns during the early part of the 20th century, the resulting photographs provide vital documentation of many structures that were subsequently damaged during World War II. Indeed, according to Caroline Bruzelius, Anne M. Cogan Professor of Art History at Duke University, “The Clarence Ward archive of photographs of medieval buildings is an immensely important source for high quality images of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. To many students and scholars, these photographs will already be familiar from Jean Bony's book on Gothic Architecture in France, as well as other scholarly publications. Clarence Ward looked at, and photographed, buildings with the eye of an architectural historian, so that his pictures are especially valuable for the history of construction technique and architectural design. Moreover, a good proportion of the photographs were taken before the destruction wrought by World War II.”

Through their collaboration, both the National Gallery of Art and Artstor seek to make this important scholarly resource more broadly available for non-commercial, scholarly, and educational purposes, through the use of digital technologies. As noted by Neal Turtell, Executive Librarian, National Gallery of Art, “The National Gallery of Art is excited to make the beautiful images from the Ward Archive more accessible to the academic community. It is a natural outgrowth of Paul Mellon's commitment to excellence in art historical research.” Selections from the Clarence Ward Archive are represented in Artstor with nearly 4,000 images, focusing on Romanesque and Gothic architecture in France, as well as American architecture from the Colonial period to the early 20th century.