Kerr Archive, Pre-Columbian artifacts
Justin and Barbara Kerr have contributed more than 500 photographs of Pre-Columbian artifacts to the Artstor Digital Library. The collection consists 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 come from archaeological sites, museums, and collections throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, the United States, Canada, and Europe. They depict a variety of everyday Mayan activities and religious concepts.
Justin Kerr is one of the world’s leading photographers of Pre-Columbian objects and Barbara Kerr is a renowned restorer. They 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, a turntable, and motors that synchronize the moving film with the surface of a revolving vase. His innovation inspired the Kerrs to produce six volumes of the Maya Vase Book — 750 rollouts with 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 scholarship about the Maya, furthering the decipherment of Maya glyphic writing. The Kerrs donated their entire photo archive to the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) of Dumbarton Oaks.
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