Open Artstor: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture is now available in Artstor, featuring a selection of approximately 2,500 images under Creative Commons licenses. This is part of an initiative to aggregate open museum, library, and archive collections across disciplines on both resources. We are proud to present this content, along with the freshly published Open Artstor: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York Public Library) collection as part of an ongoing initiative to bring more African American resources to JSTOR.
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Mrs. Michelle Apotsos
Doctoral candidate Art History/Architectural History
As a graduate student at Tufts University, I was once given the opportunity to give a lecture to a class of architectural history students on West African architectural form for the purpose of unsettling some common notions that inform Western conceptions of the built environment. I decided to present a case study of the Djenné mosque in Mali, West Africa as an example of an architectural tradition that utilizes distinctive structures, materials, and iconographies to resonate with its cultural context. The experience itself not only revealed to me the inherent challenges of teaching architectural studies in Africa, but also the necessity of having high-quality visual tools in order to recreate a convincing three-dimensional spatial narrative. Thus began my ongoing love affair with Artstor.
In the United States March is Women’s History Month, a time to remember and celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture, and society. And thanks to our contributing partners, JSTOR has an abundance of women-focused primary source collections that are free for everyone to access and use.
Last year we compiled a selection of Artstor and JSTOR collections that mostly centered on the achievement of individual women. This year we’re sharing collections that cover women’s group efforts in fighting for equal rights, making the workplace more fair, and advancing their roles in religion.
Edinburgh Ladies’ Debating Society
The complete runs of two journals, The Attempt (1865-74) and The Ladies’ Edinburgh Magazine (1875-80), featuring contributions from women who became prominent figures in education, suffrage, and welfare.
Reveal Digital Feminist Collection (Part of Independent Voices)
More than 75 magazines, newsletters, and newspapers created by activists and collectives that helped propel the second wave of feminism from the late sixties and early seventies through the end of the 20th century.
“Pictures just come to my mind, and I tell my heart to go ahead” – Horace Pippin1
We have gathered a selection of the works of African American self-taught artists to honor Black History Month. Through time, the output of Black creators in America has been labeled “primitive,” “naive,” “folk art,” “self-taught,” and more recently, “black vernacular.”2 The common ground for all of these artists is that their work springs from lived experiences, filtered through highly personal lenses, and characterized by the innovative use of found or recycled materials. The lives of these individuals were shaped by a history that ingrained violence, poverty and racism, and excluded access to academic training: Slavery, the challenges of The Restoration, The Great Migration, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights period mark the works of these artists. The foil to the hardships was intense religious inspiration and the ability to mine the beauty from shared and singular experiences in the family and the community.
Happy Black History Month! A year ago we shared a selection of image and primary source collections on Artstor and JSTOR that focused on Black history. Today, we have more than 20 community-contributed collections to add to that list—all free to access and download on JSTOR.
Black American Independent Voices (Reveal Digital)
Independent Voices provides scholars unprecedented access to writings and thoughts of those who led and participated in movements such as Black Power, the Black Arts Movement, Black Nationalism, Separatism, and Black Feminism.
Black Perspective (Lehman College, CUNY Leonard Lief Library)
A student-initiated cultural publication, Black Perspective was published from April 1972 to October 1974, and its 20 issues focused on the perceived needs and concerns of Black people at Lehman College and in society at large.
Artstor and JSTOR offer more than a million freely accessible images and other materials from library special collections, faculty research, and institutional history materials. The collections are constantly growing, and as we browsed for Latin American content in preparation for Hispanic Heritage Month, we were delighted by what we found. Here are some notable highlights:
A history project devoted to disseminating research and rigorous information about the earliest people of Black African descent that arrived, resided, and stayed in the Americas from 1492 onwards, and whose continued presence in the New World ever since is clearly shown on historical records.
A pioneering exhibit about courage, valor, and commitment consisting of 12 panels in which photographs, documents, correspondence, newspaper articles, and short biographies tell the stories of Dominicans that served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II.
CCNY CUNY Dominican Studies Institute: Condition – My Place Our Longing / Condición: Mi Lugar Nuestro Anhelo
The art exhibit Condition: My Place Our Longing / Condición: Mi Lugar Nuestro Anhelo highlights the work of Dominican artists Leslie Jiménez and Julianny Ariza. It showcases original pieces produced between 2011 and 2012 that explore the subject of living in between, in two worlds, and other conditions of living.
This collection focuses on the artist Doris Rodríguez, an artist and award-winning author and illustrator. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the US and her native Dominican Republic.
This collection focuses on the artist Josefina Baez, storyteller, performer, writer, theater director, and educator. She is the founder of the Ay Ombe Theater.
CCNY CUNY Dominican Studies Institute: Dominican Artists in the United States – Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful
This collection focuses on the artist Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful, whose works gain permanence through audios, photographs, props, drawings, rumors, embodied memories, costumes, websites, videos and publications.
I UNDERSTAND THAT I WILL NEVER
HOWEVER, I STAND.1
Students have been “standing” for centuries, and activism is at least as old as the modern western university. From Bologna in the Middle Ages through Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge, student collectives effectively determined their fees. Currently, in a world moved by activism, student uprisings are on the rise. We’re in a groundswell of youth protest, a renaissance partly defined by social media. See #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #NeverAgain, #climatechange, and many more.
An additional launch of 5,000 shots from the Magnum Photos collection provides a panorama of events across the world and brings the Artstor corpus from the cooperative to more than 130,000 photographs. At Magnum, dozens of photographers and photojournalists are perpetually seeking out stories and offering their visions: the unique perspectives of many members are reflected in the content published by Artstor this year including global manifestations of climate change raging across the planet; refugees seeking shelter and safety; celebrations and concerns around racial, cultural and sexual identity and, domestically, the collision of COVID, and the constitutional crisis at the Capitol on January 6.
The proximity and exceptional access gained by the French photographer Patrick Zachmann epitomizes the reach of the members of the cooperative. Since the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in the spring of 2019, Zachmann has documented the extraordinary labor and skill that have gone into its reconstruction: more than 350 of his photographs in Artstor chronicle this process. As shown here, last year’s progress included the reconstruction of the wooden scaffolding in the vaults of the church, and the felling of ancient oaks in the forest of Bercé to rebuild the spire. The deliberate and selective culling of the tall trees contrasts here with the nearly simultaneous deforestation of the landscape in British Columbia recorded by Canadian photographer Larry Towell—a desecration.
Zachmann also provided witness to a triumphant act of repatriation that occurred in his native Paris. Twenty-six works from the Royal Treasury at Abomey, Benin were returned to Cotonou, West Africa in November 2021. They had been in Paris since the 1890s. Here we behold Behanzi, the sharkman and the doors of a royal palace as they began their journey home in gloved hands.
The current launch also draws from the Magnum archives, notably on three artists all born around 1940. The South African photographer Ernest Cole is represented by about 600 photographs in Artstor, most depicting apartheid in his homeland, as recorded in his book House of Bondage. Guy Le Querrec whose specialization is portraying jazz musicians actually likened his own work to the syncopation and improvisation of their performances. He is represented by nearly 2,000 photographs in Artstor, including the portraits of the writer James Baldwin, singer Nina Simone, bassist Charles Mingus, and the inimitable Tina Turner displayed here.
Finally, we added works by the Moroccan born French photographer Bruno Barbey who died in 2020. The new photographs span his 55 year career and raise the total in Artstor to nearly 4,000. Above, his Cheung Chau Bun Festival, 2015, represents the popular early May ritual and demonstrates Barbey’s painterly command of color – not to mention his abiding interest in China where he began working in the early 1970s. Barbey was also known for his courageous practice in conflict zones. As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day (May 3) and honor the rights and safety of photojournalists, Barbey’s shot of the foot of the great Buddha at Leshan, 1980, underscores a humbling message of peace.
— Nancy Minty, collections editor
In celebration of Women’s History Month we have compiled a list of image and primary source collections available in JSTOR, from licensed to freely accessible community-contributed collections.
We encourage you to explore the resources: photographic, graphic, and written accounts of the women’s suffrage, labor, and reproductive rights movements: the artistic output of female painters, sculptors, architects, designers, and craftswomen; the work and lives of women in science; photographs of women and by women, including a wide selection of portraits of literary luminaries, as well as of communities of women around the globe.
Artstor has released more than 2,000 images from The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a world-leading cultural institution devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. The center was named after its chief early contributor, Arthur Schomburg. You can access this collection freely on JSTOR.