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September 20, 2011

Interview with the World Monuments Fund

Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund (WMF), the leading independent organization dedicated to saving the world’s most treasured places, talks to Christine Kuan about the history and future projects of WMF. The Artstor Digital Library recently launched WMF’s images of architecture, sites, and monuments from around the world.

Jaisalmer Fort; Exterior, India. | Photographer: Mark Weber. | World Monuments Fund

CK: What is the mission of WMF?

BB: World Monuments Fund works globally to ensure that heritage sites of worldwide significance are preserved, protected, and play a meaningful role in the local and global community today.

CK: How many countries has WMF worked within since its founding in 1965?

BB: In our more than 45 years of serving the field of heritage conservation, WMF has conducted and supported field projects in more than 100 countries, at nearly 600 sites.

CK: What are the challenges of preserving world monuments in the 21st century?

BB: Heritage sites face a range of threats, which have to do with changing ways of life, values, and the impact of a changing environment. Everything from the past cannot be saved as the world continues to reshape itself. In spite of their best efforts, governments cannot protect every site that is confronted with potential loss. Communities rally around the monuments that are most meaningful for them to save, but often they do not have the vision, the resources or the momentum to achieve their goals. This is where an international organization, the voice of an international concerned citizenry can help. The biggest challenge for the preservation field today is to preserve not only buildings themselves, but a meaningful context that will allow them to continue to play vital roles within the community where they exist.

CK: What is the most complex project you’ve worked on during your tenure at WMF?

BB: Sometimes projects are complicated from a technical perspective and sometimes they involve bringing together a diverse political consensus. It is the latter situation that is more complex. After the end of the Soviet period, WMF began to work extensively in eastern and central Europe. Many great heritage sites had been neglected for ideological reasons, especially sacred places and estates associated with the aristocracy. There was no prioritization or sense of how and where to start. Local authorities had no experience with how to make a monument economically self-sufficient. In the communist system the state had owned and paid for everything. Powerful officials made all the decisions. Our process of forging consensus about what to do and how to make it happen was a new idea to our counterparts in the former soviet bloc. It was a very exciting but often frustrating and complicated process. We never knew where we stood, and whether at the end of the day someone could stand in the way of all we were trying to achieve, simply because they had the power to do so. Working in postwar Iraq there is a similar feeling of uncertainty about whether the good alliances we have formed with our local counterparts will stand the test of time, as the government is still rapidly changing and evolving. Until things settle down and normalize politically, it will be difficult for people in the cultural sector to achieve lasting results that the society can embrace.

CK: How has Internet impacted the work of WMF?

Maya Sites of the Yucatan Peninsula, Yucatán, Mexico, ca. 600-900. Photographer: Bonnie Burnham. World Monuments Fund.

BB: The Internet has had a wonderful impact on our work in making it more widely accessible in ways we could not have imagined or planned for. When our World Monuments Watch list is announced every two years, the information reaches millions of people around the world in a matter of minutes. We get extraordinary responses from people everywhere who are moved by the places we are trying to defend. We can get a feeling for the local events they are organizing – a vigil, a rally, or a hearing. The connections are immediate.

Another way the Internet helps us is as a virtual environment for presenting the places we are trying to preserve, giving many people an opportunity to experience a real sense of place. With the development of other forms of new technology, such as laser scanning, we are now able to recreate monuments that are far away, inaccessible, or even lost, for a worldwide audience. This is a powerful new form of education.

CK: Part of WMF’s mission is education and training, what are some of the most critical education programs sponsored by WMF?

BB: We support many hands-on training programs at sites where we work. It is wonderful to see our trainees become personally involved with and committed to saving places that they might have been indifferent to prior to this opportunity, simply because they had not been able to see what we valued in those places. It’s very inspiring when a young person with no educational preparation comes to share and embody the values that inspire your own work. But my favorite educational program is one that WMF helped to establish at the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design in Brooklyn, NY. The curriculum at this school draws completely upon learning directly from experiences in the built environment surrounding the school and in the community. Every academic course curriculum at every grade is interwoven with experiential knowledge from local landmarks – whether it’s English, math, science or history. The students learn from the monuments around them. I believe it is a very good way to learn, and the academic success of the students in the school has borne that out. Sometimes their lives are transformed by this opportunity. I wish I had had a similar experience when I was growing up.

CK: Has digital photography been useful to the work of WMF?

BB: Digital photography has and will continue to transform our ability to understand places. So much can be done to work with these images, integrate them together, transmit them around the world, and keep them permanently as a record of a given place at a given time, that digital images have almost outdated traditional photographic means. Traditional photography has become as a consequence more of an art form, a way of recording a moment or a sensation or a sense of place. All that is wonderful and legitimate, but perhaps the two have different purposes and different uses today.

CK: You studied at the University of Florida and l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne and devoted your career to cultural heritage preservation. Are there notable different cultural approaches to the preservation of world monuments?

BB: Nothing in my academic training prepared me for my career in heritage conservation, unless it was the opportunity of international study, where I learned very quickly that there are completely different cultural perspectives and approaches to education itself. I continue to be educated by every new project, country, and cultural environment in which we work. There are indeed different ways of thinking about monuments, different aesthetic and ethical approaches to preservation, and different ways in which communities and authorities locally express their respect for these sites.

Preah Khan; Exterior, ca. 12th c. Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. Photographer: John Stubbs/World Monuments Fund

CK: Is there any site/monument that you’ve always wanted to work on but never had the chance?

BB: Yes. The Taj Mahal. We were able to do a little work there, but not enough to help transform the run-down area around the monument and improve the overall experience of visiting the Taj, which would have been our long-term goal.

CK: What is one of the most endangered sites/monuments now that everyone should be aware of?

BB: The most endangered monuments today may be those that are most appreciated by the public. It is very rare for a good system to be in place to help preserve and protect monuments in relation to their own public. That public, especially in the form of tourists, can completely change the nature of the place, without meaning or wanting to do so, just by their very presence. The most endangered monument that is being lost, probably irretrievably, today is Venice. This is because of a range of factors working together to produce a net loss, which is getting worse as the years go on. The environmental impact of rising water is ominous. The demographic changes of the city, with the Venetians leaving or being forced out because of rising property values, the unregulated numbers of tourists and the insensitive commercial decisions – from allowing oversized tour boats in the canals to selling huge space for advertising panels on key monuments – have degraded its sense of place, and it is steadily losing its appeal as a living community. The political powers of the city, and its citizenry, do not seem to have the will to save historic Venice as a vital city.

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September 13, 2011

Teaching with Artstor: Trajan’s Column

By Erin Giffin, University Of Washington

[The images in this post were selected to accompany the final exercise for the course “Introduction to Western Art — Ancient” (Art History 201) offered during autumn quarter 2010. This 300-student survey class balanced lectures by Professor Margaret Laird with meetings in smaller sections supervised by graduate student Teaching Assistants, one of whom was Ms. Giffin.]

Giovanni Battista Mercati, Colonna Traiana

Artstor was central to this assignment’s success. Professor Laird developed an exercise to teach independent research skills and the creative analysis of evidence. It challenged students to work in pairs to develop a 5-minute, illustrated oral presentation exploring how the Column of Trajan in Rome presented the enemy Dacians. Students were free to focus on any aspect of interest to them and to use any of the various art-historical methods they had learned in the course. Laird created an Image Group composed of forty-four slides showing episodes from the first Dacian War arranged in the order in which they appear on the column. Photographs of casts of the column (scanned from UCSD slides) clarified where each scene began and ended. Brief descriptions added to the “Instructor notes” tab explained the action in each scene. These slides introduced high-resolution color photographs of the same scenes from the column itself (made by Shmuel Magal for Sites and Photos). Students could consider figures across scenes or closely study individual sections in exquisite detail using the “zoom” feature.

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September 9, 2011

Remembering 9/11

It’s been several years since the attacks on 9/11, but the events refuse to be confined to history. They continue to shape life and discourse in New York City, the United States, and the world, and the subject touches on disciplines as varied as social studies, journalism, political science, international relations, religious studies, economics, and civics. The Artstor Digital Library offers extraordinary images that provide many angles through which this complex episode can be considered.

A dazed man picks up a paper that was blown out of the towers after the attack of the World Trade Center, and begins to read it. ©Larry Towell / Magnum Photos. Image and original data provided by Magnum Photos

Dozens of images of the attack on the World Trade Center are available in the Magnum Photos collection, which also includes photographs of New York City in the following days and subsequent commemorations such as the Tribute of Light at Ground Zero on the second anniversary of the attacks. The collection also features magnificent views of the World Trade Center from the 1970s to the 1990s.

The event and its ensuing developments brought forth a wide range of reactions; these are represented in the Digital Library with works by contemporary artists, from the elegiac National Tribute Quilt in the American Folk Art Museum to searingly critical pieces by renowned political artist Hans Haacke in Contemporary Art (Larry Qualls Archive).

There are also glimmers of wonder among the many solemn images. A particularly touching piece is a Mexican retablo commissioned in gratitude for the survival of a loved one who was working in the Twin Towers during the attack.

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August 18, 2011

Teaching with Artstor: Race, Identity, and Experience in American Art

By Dr. Jennifer Zarro, Tyler School of Art, Temple University

John Lewis Krimmel, Pepper-Pot: A Scene in the Philadelphia Market, 1811. This image was provided by Philadelphia Museum of Art

Artstor makes possible what we know to be the best teaching practices in higher education. Using Artstor in my class, Race, Identity, and Experience in American Art, allows for multiple possibilities for teaching and learning. It is an especially important resource for this course which has unlimited approaches and no textbook. This class often confronts material that is new or uncomfortable for participants and implementing creative and supportive assignments is important for fostering open dialogue and deep learning opportunities.

We know that lifelong learning occurs when people engage in a personal way about something they find beautiful and interesting. Further, and most ideally, deep learning occurs when students decide their own course of study. Ken Bain tell us that the best learning environment is one in which students create authentic tasks that allow them to feel a sense of control over their education. Using Artstor supports these claims in several ways. An assignment that stems from these ideas is to have students curate their own image-group exhibitions in Artstor that they present to the class. Critiques and questions follow and students explain the ideas and materials that led to their choices. Students can create unique visual stories about an aspect of our course content – whiteness, immigration, identity self-fashioning – and share their story with diverse others. Research projects may also stem from this image group. Being a curator lets students be in charge of their learning in a creative and scholarly way. It allows for alternate ways to teach and learn art history that moves away from simply showing slides in a darkened room and expecting memorization of the material.

Caste Painting, 18c. Image and original data provided by The University of Texas at Austin, College of Fine Arts.
Caste Painting, 18c. Image and original data provided by The University of Texas at Austin, College of Fine Arts.
Caste Painting, 18c. Image and original data provided by The University of Texas at Austin, College of Fine Arts.
John Lewis Krimmel, Pepper-Pot: A Scene in the Philadelphia Market, 1811. This image was provided by Philadelphia Museum of Art
John Lewis Krimmel, Pepper-Pot: A Scene in the Philadelphia Market, Detail, 1811. This image was provided by Philadelphia Museum of Art
John Lewis Krimmel, Pepper-Pot: A Scene in the Philadelphia Market, Detail, 1811. This image was provided by Philadelphia Museum of Art
Jacob A Riis, Home of an Italian ragpicker, 1888-1889. Museum of the City of New York.

Another successful assignment is to have students work in groups much like a curatorial team in a museum. The team considers which image group or individual artwork should be part of an exhibition based on one of the themes of the course – 1970s Feminism or Chicano identity and culture, for example. Students grapple with ideas and history, consider together the importance of certain works, research items from an image group in order to support their decisions, and learn about works of art and artists all while engaging in vital interpersonal exchanges with peers. The finished product is an image group exhibition that we post to our online learning site. The images illustrate some of the major themes of my course and how American identity is complex, varied, and ultimately changeable.

The examples mentioned above allow students to take control of their learning in ways that foster deeper involvement with artworks and cultural ideas. These projects let students do the work of creating course materials. They allow students to interact with peers and in groups, give them opportunities to think critically and to find something beautiful, foster debate and discussion, and may even lead to shifts in thinking. In the best case scenario, students bring these important ways of being into the real world.

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August 16, 2011

Artstor Is… Latin American Studies

Moche peoples, Peru, Pair of Earflares, 3rd-7th century. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Artstor Digital Library offers many excellent resources to support Latin American Studies, encompassing materials from the Pre-Columbian era through the Spanish conquest, and from Cuba’s revolution in 1959 to images of Carnaval in Brazil in 2008.

Guatemala, Maya, Vessel with Mythological Scene , 8th century. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A history of the region can be illustrated with images from the encyclopedic collections available in the Digital Library. An excellent start can be The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, which includes hundreds of pages from Aztec codices that provide excellent primary sources for Pre-Columbian culture. The Codex Mendoza (ca. 1541), for example, illustrates the history of Aztec rulers and their conquests, the tributes paid by their provinces, and a fascinating general description of daily Aztec life. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Brooklyn Museum Costumes contains examples of 19th and 20th century costumes from different Latin American countries, providing a glimpse of the culture after the region’s independence from Spain. Revolutions, civil wars, elections, and other events in Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and other countries from the 1950s to current times are amply documented in Magnum Photos.

Artstor also features many collections that specialize in or are substantially devoted to Latin American topics. Some concentrate on the arts, such as Jacqueline Barnitz: Modern Latin American Art (University of Texas at Austin): modern art from Mexico and ten other Caribbean, Central, and South American countries; and Latin American Art (Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros): colonial, modern, and contemporary Latin American art.

Grand Pyramid at Tenayuca. Masonry ‘Serpent’ sculptures surrounding the base. Photographer: Josef Albers. © 2008 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, CT/Artists Rights Society, NY. Photograph by Tim Nighswander.

Others collections focus on archaeological sites and Pre-Columbian arts, including Carnegie Institution of Washington Photographs of Mayan Excavations (Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University): archaeological excavations throughout Central America, images from the excavated sites at Chichen Itza and Copán; Ferguson-Royce: Pre-Columbian Photography (University of Texas at Austin): magnificent aerial views and ground photographs of many of the major Pre-Columbian sites in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras; and Josef and Anni Albers Foundation: the artists’ travel photographs taken between 1934 and 1967 during visits to cities and archaeological sites throughout Chile, Mexico, and Peru, along with personal photographs and photo collages.

Santa Maria, exterior detail, 18th Century. Image and original data provided by the School of Architecture Visual Resources Collection, The University of Texas at Austin

Architecture in Latin America is covered by Hal Box and Logan Wagner: Mexican Architecture and Urban Design (University of Texas at Austin): architecture and outdoor communal spaces in Mexico, focusing on Pre-Columbian and 16th-17th century Colonial sites, but also including Post Colonial structures from the 18th – 20th centuries; and Alka Patel: South Asian and Cuban Art and Architecture: field photography including a selection of Cuban architecture of the 18th through early 20th centuries.

A few collections present more unusual cultural artifacts, notably Cuban Heritage Collection (University of Miami Libraries): black and white photographs of Cuba from the early 1900s to the 1930s depicting various aspects of the life, architecture, and culture of Havana and other Cuban towns; and Mexican Retablos (Jorge Durand and Douglas Massey): contemporary examples of traditional religious folk art as a source of sociological data for the experiences of Mexican migrants to the United States.

Artstor is working on more collections, among them Diego Rivera (Detroit Institute of Arts): images of works by the influential Mexican artist; Mark Rogovin: Mexican Murals: 20th century murals in Mexico; The Jean Charlot Collection (University of Hawai’i at Manoa): including Mexican art and archaeology, particularly relating to the revolutionary artists and writers of the 1920s; and new QTVR panoramas from Columbia University that include Sacsayhuamán, the Inca walled complex north of Cusco, Peru.

For more interdisciplinary teaching ideas, visit the Digital Library and click on “Featured Groups.” Also, download Artstor’s Latin American Studies Subject Guide.

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July 28, 2011

Teaching with Artstor: Re-historicizing Contemporary Pacific Island Art

The Artstor Blog is the place to find new interdisciplinary teaching ideas with our new series: Teaching with Artstor. This week we feature Re-historicizing Contemporary Pacific Island Art” by Marion Cadora, a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

My research in the Department of Art and Art History at University of Hawai`i looks at contemporary Pacific Island artists who are using art as a tool to rewrite history through indigenous perspectives.

John La Farge, Girls Carrying a Canoe, Vaiala in Samoa, 1891. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Josiah Martin, Samoa type de chef de Samoa/Cliche J.Martin, ca. 1900-1919. George Eastman House
Tonga; Ha'apai Archipelago, Female Figure, Early 19th century. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Edward Steichen, Portrait of Hawaiian model Kaaloalakini, ca. 1937. George Eastman House
possibly Korewori, Female Figure, early to mid-20th century. Image and original data provided by Saint Louis Art Museum

I am interested in compositions of the “body,” both male and female, and from multiple time periods and perspectives. However, understanding ways in which “bodies” are imagined is incredibly complex. One scholar suggests that masculinities “have been formed in relation to, as much as resistance against, foreign hegemonic models and through such histories, hybrid hegemonies have emerged” (Jolly, 2008). That in mind, it is true that Oceanic bodies are best studied relationally and historically, between pasts, presents, and futures.  How then can we engage with and visualize Oceanic bodies within the wider frame of historiography? Interestingly, Artstor has been a powerful tool to assist with such inquiries.

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July 27, 2011

Artstor Is… Middle Eastern Studies

Persepolis (Takht-e Jamshid), Iran, Sculpture, bull head, 6th-5th century BC. Image and original data provided by Bryn Mawr College. Image © Bryn Mawr College

Extending from Morocco and North Africa to Turkey and Iran, the Middle East is interesting and complex economically, socially, politically, and culturally. The Artstor Digital Library offers many collections that document the rich history of the region that gave birth to the world’s earliest civilizations and major religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Islamic, Qur’an stand, 1360. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Explore these collections which focus mainly or exclusively on the Middle East and jointly feature approximately 100,000 related images: Islamic Art and Architecture Collection (Sheila Blair, Jonathan Bloom, Walter Denny): digital images of the art and architecture of Islam from the personal archives of a team of leading scholar photographers; Mellink Archive (Bryn Mawr College): archaeological excavations of ancient sites in Turkey and the Near East; Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art: Syrian and Persian furniture, doors, and ceilings; Persian and Turkish tile panels and portable ceramics; and Central Asian, Persian, and Turkish textiles; Pattern in Islamic Art from David Wade: images illustrating patterns and design features found throughout the Islamic world; Barbara Anello: Photographs of Southeast Asia and Morocco: images of Morocco’s traditional earthen architecture in Ait Ben Haddou and Skoura, and the ancient Roman ruins in Volubilis; James Conlon: Mali and Yemen sites and architecture: includes contemporary photographs depicting architecture and cultural sites and objects in Tarim and many other cities, monuments, and sites in Yemen’s Hadramaut Valley; Dura Europos and Gerasa Archives (Yale): images of papyri, artifacts, and structures unearthed during the excavations of the ancient sites of Dura-Europos in Syria and Gerasa (modern Jerash) in Jordan, along with historical documentation of the expeditions; Egyptian and other Ancient Art (Arielle Kozloff Brodkey): images of the art, architecture, and archaeology of ancient Egypt, with special strengths in Theban tombs; Giza Archaeological Expedition Archive (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston): visual documentation of the Giza pyramids, workers at dig sites, interiors of excavated monuments, objects, and human remains in their original find spots, individual finds and artifacts, and Egyptians in modern-day Giza and Cairo; Plans of Ancient and Medieval Buildings and Archaeological Sites (Bryn Mawr College): site plans for key ancient and medieval architectural monuments and archeological sites relating to the Classical and Ancient Near East; and Sites and Photos: broad and in-depth documentation of the ancient world, including Classical, Megalithic, Islamic, Crusader, and Gothic archaeology and architecture, with a focus on religious and Biblical sites.

Abdullah Freres, Mosquée de Kaid Bey, 1850s – 1890. This image and data was provided by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

In addition, there are dozens of collections that feature images related to the Middle East in their wide-ranging content, such as Magnum Photos, which covers events like the establishment of Israel as an independent state, the Iranian Revolution, and the Iraq War, and George Eastman House, which features 19th century travel and landscape photography of the Middle East by photographers such as Abdullah Frères and Félix Bonfils. You can find tens of thousands further images by browsing by individual country: Choose Browse > Geography > and then pick the Middle Eastern country you are researching. You can choose a Classification to further narrow your results.

For teaching ideas, see our Sample Topic on Middle Eastern Studies. To view all our Sample Topics, visit the Digital Library and click on “Featured Groups.” Also, read Colette Appelian’s 2011 Travel Award-winning essay, “Online Teaching and Architectural Solutions to Climate Problems in the Islamic World.” For more interdisciplinary ideas, download Artstor’s Subject Guides.

Tapestry Square with the Head of Spring, Egyptian , 4th–5th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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July 5, 2011

Artstor Is… American Studies

We welcome our United States users back to their desks after the Independence Day holiday weekend with a pointer: The Digital Library provides thousands of images related to American Studies ranging from colonial times to the present, including photography, architecture, decorative arts, graphic design, painting, and sculpture.

The Forbes Co. | Buffalo Bill: Cowboys Ride Texas Longhorn | The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art: Circus Collection

The Artstor Digital Library is rich with collections that cover general American history. Notable ones include: Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Library of Congress): pictorial overview of American history, including images of prints, posters, maps, manuscript pages, photographs, design, movie stills, and cartoons; Native American Art and Culture (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution): historic photographs documenting Native American subjects (portraits, scenes, etc.);  Schlesinger History of Women in America Collection (Harvard University): portraits of women’s work, key participants in the women’s suffrage movement and larger women’s rights movement, as well as women involved in organized labor and vocational training; Richard F. Brush Art Gallery (St. Lawrence University): photographs documenting the Vietnam War and protests and demonstrations it engendered in the United States; George Eastman House: early photographs of the American West by William Henry Jackson and Carleton Watkins, and portraits by Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes, widely considered the first masters of photography in the United States; The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art: Circus Collection: images documenting the history of the circus in America; Historic American Sheet Music Covers (Minneapolis College of Art and Design): sheet music covers in this collection date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (1898-1923); The Rogovin Collection: social documentary photography of the poor and working class, and his depictions of their lives, communities, and working conditions; Century Magazine Illustrations of the American Civil War (Minneapolis College of Art and Design): images depicting Civil War battle scenes and camp life, as well as details of weapons and uniforms; and Tenniel Civil War Cartoon Collection (Minneapolis College of Art and Design): John Tenniel’s full-page cartoons of the American Civil War in British humor magazine Punch.

Andy Warhol | Andy Warhol | The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Collection | © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

The Digital Library also offers many resources on American art and architecture. Among the highlights: Carnegie Arts of the United States: history of American art, architecture, visual and material culture; Ralph Lieberman: Architectural Photography: architecture and public sculpture in the United States, particularly museum architecture in the Midwest and New England; Dov Friedman: American and European Architecture: historic and contemporary architecture in the United States; Community Murals (Timothy Drescher): contemporary community murals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.; Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South (Library of Congress): a systematic record of early buildings and gardens in the American South; and Terra Foundation for American Art: art of the colonial era through 1945.

Christopher Anderson | Barack Obama at a rally, 2008 | Image and original data provided by Magnum Photos | © Christopher Anderson / Magnum Photos

Also of note, Magnum Photos features iconic photographs documenting the history and culture of the United States from the 1940s to the present. Cornell Capa covered major political events, such as the electoral campaigns of Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. Following Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, Paul Fusco captured fleeting images of the thousands of mourners who lined the tracks as Kennedy’s body was carried by funeral train from New York to Washington, DC. Throughout the 1960s, Magnum photographers chronicled the struggles of African-Americans to achieve racial equality, photographing demonstrations, protests, marches, and speeches by prominent leaders of the civil rights movement, especially Martin Luther King, Jr. The Magnum collection includes images of current events in the United States, from on-the-ground photographs of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans in 2005, to Barack Obama’s election in 2008.

Find hundreds of thousands of further American images by choosing Browse > Geography > United States. Choose a Classification to narrow your results.

For teaching ideas, see our Sample Topic on American Studies. To view all our Sample Topics, visit the Digital Library and click on “Featured Groups.” For more interdisciplinary ideas, download Artstor’s Subject Guides.

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June 20, 2011

35 Years of Ephemeral Art: Martha Wilson on Franklin Furnace

Franklin Furnace was founded in 1976 by artist Martha Wilson to champion ephemeral art forms neglected by mainstream arts institutions. The organization provided a much-needed forum for artists’ books, temporary installation art, and performance art, and launched the careers of artists whose work has greatly influenced art and cultural discourse in this country.  After 35 years, Franklin Furnace continues its mission to present, preserve, and advocate on behalf of ephemeral art. In 2008, Franklin Furnace partnered with ARTstor to digitize and publish on the web documentation of events it presented and produced.

To celebrate the most recent addition of images and documentation of Franklin Furnace events in the Digital Library, Artstor invited Founding Director Martha Wilson to share a history of the renowned venue.

If I had known 35 years ago how much work it was going to be to establish a not-for-profit organization in my living loft at 112 Franklin Street in TriBeCa, I probably would not have done it. Several times I was tempted to fold the tent. Yet the vacuum in the art world that need to be filled (with hot air!) was obvious, and kept me going: none of the major institutions in town were paying attention to what artists were doing. Artists were publishing cheap stuff, artworks masquerading as books. Around the same time, Printed Matter was being formed (as a for-profit corporation at first) by a collective of artists and activists, to publish artists’ books; soon we divided the pie such that Franklin Furnace took on the exhibition and preservation of artists’ books, Printed Matter, Inc. took on their publication and distribution.

Dolores Zorreguieta "Wounds" (1994)
Dolores Zorreguieta "Wounds" (November 11 - December 10, 1994). Photograph by Marty Heitner.
Laurie Anderson reading (1977)
Laurie Anderson reading (May 3, 1977). Photograph by Franklin Furnace.
Dara Birnbaum "(Reading) Versus (Reading Into)" (1978)
Dara Birnbaum "(Reading) Versus (Reading Into)" (April 11 - April 27, 1978). Photograph by Franklin Furnace.
Karen Finley, "A Woman's Life Isn't Worth Much" (1990)
Karen Finley, "A Woman's Life Isn't Worth Much" (May 18 - June 16, 1990). Left to right: Karen Finley, Martha Wilson. Photograph by Marty Heitner.
Jenny Holzer, "Truisms" (1978)
Jenny Holzer, "Truisms" (December 12 - December 30, 1978). Pictured: Mike Glier. Photograph by Franklin Furnace.
Tehching Hsieh, "One Year Performance" (1983)
Tehching Hsieh, "One Year Performance" (February 16 - March 12, 1983). Photograph by Franklin Furnace.
Tina Keane, "Playpen" (1981)
Tina Keane, "Playpen" (March 17, 1981). Photograph by Franklin Furnace.
Leslie Labowitz, "Sprout Time" (1981)
Leslie Labowitz, "Sprout Time" (March 20, 1981). Photograph by Franklin Furnace.
Ana Mendieta, "Body Tracks" (1982)
Ana Mendieta, "Body Tracks" (April 8, 1982). Photograph by Franklin Furnace.
Shirin Neshat, "Unveiling" (1993)
Shirin Neshat, "Unveiling" (April 2 - May 1, 1993). Photograph by Marty Heitner.
William Pope.L, "How Much is that Nigger in the Window?" (1991)
William Pope.L, "How Much is that Nigger in the Window?" (June 1 - August 31, 1991). Photgraph by Franklin Furnace.
William Wegman, Reading from War and Peace with Man Ray (1977)
William Wegman, Reading from War and Peace with Man Ray (February 15, 1977). Photograph by Jacki Apple.

In the early days, I asked artists to read from their published works; this immediately became the performance art program. To complement the cheap stuff we were archiving, Franklin Furnace began exhibiting artworks in book form; this soon turned into the temporary installation program. Franklin Furnace often premiered artists in New York who later emerged as art world stars: Ida Applebroog, Eric Bogosian, David Cale, Patty Chang, Willie Cole, Sue de Beer, Nicole Eisenmann, Karen Finley, Kate Gilmore, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Ann Hamilton, Murray Hill, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Liza Lou, Taylor Mac, Robbie McCauley, Rashaad Newsome, William Pope.L, Emily Roysdon, Dread Scott, James Sienna, Theodora Skipitares, Michael Smith, Annie Sprinkle, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Paul Zaloom, among hundreds of others. Franklin Furnace has had an indelible impact upon art by launching the careers of artists whose work has influenced art and cultural discourse in this country.

Franklin Furnace occupied the ground floor and then the basement of 112 Franklin Street for 20 years. In the wake of the Culture Wars, we decided to “go virtual” to give artists the freedom of expression they had enjoyed in the loft during the 1970s. We moved to the Financial District until 9/11 made it depressing and archivally challenging, then responded to an RFP to move to 80 Arts in the BAM Cultural District, where we live today with collegial organizations like Bang on a Can, Bomb Magazine, Sound Portraits, and Witness.

Franklin Furnace collaborated with the Abrons Art Center of Henry Street Settlement to present “The History of the Future: A Franklin Furnace View of Performance Art” during the Performa 07 biennial. We presented live performance artists interspersed with historical video footage of performance art works from the last three decades. At the end of the evening, audience members were invited up on stage to enjoy drinks, and have their pictures taken with Marina Abramović. A couple approached me to say, “Hi, we’re Julie and Glenn Gribble and we live in your old loft at 112 Franklin Street.” We made a deal to throw a party someday. As our 35th birthday party appeared on the horizon, the plans took shape: We held our celebration not only in our original loft, but on our actual 35th birthday. Ame Gilbert and Deena Lubow of Communal Table prepared spectacular food, and got spinach pie from the nearby Square Diner, where many a lunch was eaten back in the day. Marja Samsom, who had performed as “Miss Behave” at Franklin Furnace in 1980, returned as the “Dumpling Diva” to make her signature mushroom dumplings. And Vince Bruns, proprietor of Westfield Seafood (and my partner of 18 years) provided shrimp and crab cakes.

As part and parcel of the entertainment at the party, we showed slides of artists’ installation and performance artworks which also showed the loft in all its gritty glory. These slides were harvested from a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Booth Ferris Foundation to digitize Franklin Furnace’s first decade of event records, to publish them on our website, and to contribute them to ARTstor’s database so they might be used in art and art history classrooms.

During the last 35 years, Franklin Furnace’s mission has remained constant—to make the world safe for avant-garde art—but the implementation of our purpose has evolved from presenting space to research resource. Instead of 75 people sitting on hard folding chairs, now our online audience is a worldwide mix of artists, students, scholars and regular folk from 65 countries. If I had had unlimited resources, I probably wouldn’t have taken Franklin Furnace into the virtual realm; and I occasionally feel nostalgic for the loft space at 112 Franklin Street. Yet I’m not sorry history turned out like it did!

–Martha Wilson, April 2011

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June 17, 2011

Artstor Is… Architecture

State Capitol, Montgomery, AL. Photographer: Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1939. Image and original data from Library of Congress, Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South Collection

Artstor just launched the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South (Library of Congress), architectural photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston’s systematic record of early American buildings and gardens in the South. Johnston’s masterly portrayals of the exteriors and interiors of houses, mills, churches, mansions, plantations, and outbuildings transcend their purpose as records, and her prints have been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Baltimore Museum of Art, among other institutions. Johnston was a pioneer photographer—she was given her first camera by George Eastman, the inventor of roll film—and she continued to work at her craft until her death in New Orleans at the age of 88. She was named an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects for her work in preserving old and endangered buildings.

The Carnegie Survey is the latest of the many excellent resources available for architectural studies in the Digital Library, which features more than 50 collections and 300,000 images documenting architecture and the built environment, including monuments, buildings, drawings, models, plans, and QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) panoramas.

TWA Terminal (Trans World Airlines Terminal), exterior, entrance from the north. Eero Saarinen and Associates, with Kevin Roche, Cesar Pelli, Edward Saad, and Norman Pettula, architects. Photographer: Ezra Stoller, 1962. Ezra Stoller © Esto

Highlights include: The Museum of Modern Art: Architecture and Design, which features architectural drawings, models, and photographs; SAHARA (Society of Architectural Historians Architecture Resources Archive), images of architecture, landscape design, and the built environment; Ezra Stoller: Modern Architecture (Esto), modern architecture from the archive of the celebrated architectural photographer; Architecture of Venice (Sarah Quill), Venetian architecture and architectural sculpture; Hal Box and Logan Wagner: Mexican Architecture and Urban Design (University of Texas at Austin), architecture and outdoor communal spaces in Mexico; Carnegie Survey of Architecture of the South (Library of Congress), a systematic record of early buildings and gardens in the American South; Brian Davis: Architecture in Britain, British and European architectural and garden sites from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century; European Architecture and Sculpture (Sara N. James), Italian and English architecture, with an emphasis on sites in England; Dov Friedman: American and European Architecture, historic architecture of New York City, as well as sites in Central and Eastern Europe; Hartill Archive of Architecture and Allied Arts, the architectural history of the Western world from antiquity through the present, and from the Middle East to the Americas; Historic Campus Architecture Project (Council of Independent Colleges), the first national architecture and landscape database of independent college and university campuses; Historic Illustrations of Art & Architecture (Minneapolis College of Art and Design), engravings, line drawings, and plans; Christopher Long: Central European Architecture (University of Texas at Austin), sites in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland; Wilfried Wang: Modern Architecture (University of Texas at Austin), modern European and American architecture, with a special focus on museum architecture.

Tomb Complex of Muhammad Adil Shah, 1656 Bijapur, Karnataka, India. Photographer: Alka Patel, 2008. © 2008 Alka Patel.

The collections in the Digital Library also include several devoted to non-Western architecture. Among the most notable are Islamic Art and Architecture Collection (Sheila Blair, Jonathan Bloom, Walter Denny), architecture of the Islamic world; Alka Patel: South Asian and Cuban Art and Architecture, fieldwork photography focusing on the Islamic architectural history of South Asia from 12th to the 18th centuries, and Cuban architecture of the 18th through early 20th centuries; Mellon International Dunhuang Archive, Buddhist cave shrines in Dunhuang, China; Sites and Photos, archaeological and architectural sites in the Middle East and Europe; American Institute of Indian Studies, Indian art and architecture; Art, Archaeology, and Architecture (Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives), art and architecture in Asia and the Middle East; Herbert Cole: African Art, Architecture, and Culture (University of California, Santa Barbara), field photography of African architecture and sites from Nigeria, Ghana, the Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Kenya; and James Conlon: Mali and Yemen Sites and Architecture, earthen architecture and other traditions that link the two distant countries.

Arons & Gelauff; Animal Shelter; curving wall leads to courtyard and entry or receiving area, 2007, Ookmeerweg 270, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Image and original data provided by ART on FILE.

In addition to its many collections, Artstor collaborates with professional photographers documenting a wide range of architectural sites and monuments around the world. Colleen Chartier and Rob Wilkinson of ART on FILE document contemporary architecture, built environment projects, and landscape architecture throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East in ART on FILE: Contemporary Architecture, Urban Design and Public Art; Susan Silberberg-Peirce of Canyonlights World Art Image Bank photographed prehistoric and Native American sites in the Southwestern United States and Spanish Colonial missions, available in California Art, Archaeology, and Architecture (Canyonlights World Art Image Bank); art historian and photographer Ralph Lieberman is producing new images of contemporary museum architecture throughout the United States and Canada in Ralph Lieberman: Architectural Photography; and Columbia University has created thousands of QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) panoramas of ancient to contemporary architecture that can be seen in QTVR Panoramas of World Architecture (Columbia University).

Buqshan family villa, stairway between structures; Wadi Du’an, Yemen. Photographer: James Conlon, 2008. For commercial use or publication, please contact: Caleb Smith, Director, Media Center for Art History, Columbia University

Furthermore, with the support of a three-year National Leadership grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Artstor, and The Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University are collaborating on the creation of a Built Works Registry (BWR), a community-generated data resource for architectural works and the built environment. The BWR’s goal is to create the system and tools to enable the gathering and widespread dissemination of a large and growing body of built works information. Some ideas about the challenges and benefits of creating the BWR can be found in Aaron Straup Cope and Christine Kuan’s paper, “Imagining the Built Works Registry.” See Built Works Registry Blog.

For teaching ideas, see our Sample Topic on Architecture and the Built Environment. To view all our Sample Topics, visit the Digital Library and click on “Featured Groups.” For more interdisciplinary ideas, download Artstor’s Subject Guides.

Have other suggestions for new architecture collections? Leave us a comment!

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