Kerr Archive

Mesoamerican, Polychrome vase. Kerr Archive;

Artstor has collaborated with Justin Kerr and Barbara Kerr to share more than 500 photographs of Pre-Columbian artifacts. The collection will consist of still and rollout photographs of vases, plates, and bowls from the various cultures of Mesoamerica. The rollouts—which show the entire surface of an object in a single frame—were made by photographer Justin Kerr with a camera he designed and built. The objects in the collection depict a variety of everyday Mayan activities and religious concepts, and stem from archaeological sites, museums, and collections throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Justin Kerr is one of the world's leading photographers of Pre-Columbian objects and Barbara Kerr is a renowned restorer. The Kerrs first experienced the ruins of Chichén Itzá in Yucatan, Mexico in the 1960s. It was a life-changing moment. Afterwards they began to visit sites and study Pre-Columbian art extensively. By 1978 they were dedicated to photographing Pre-Columbian objects exclusively.

Justin created his "rollout" camera from a Hasselblad camera, a turntable, and motors that synchronize the moving film with the surface of a revolving vase. His innovation inspired the Kerrs to design and produce six volumes of the Maya Vase Book to share 750 "roll-outs" along essays by leading scholars. Justin's photographs have since been included in most major books on the topic.

The Kerrs also created the Maya Vase Database, featuring more than 3,500 photographs and scholarly writing about the Maya, furthering the decipherment of Maya glyphic writing. The Maya Vase archives will become part of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.