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PHSNEMeetings / 2008-03

For March, a Visit to the Castle of Prints Charming

McKim Building steps in the 1920s.
McKim Building steps in the 1920s. (Maynard Workshop)

The Boston Public Library’s Print Department Is One Treasure Within Another

There’s a lot more than books in the library, as PHSNE will discover when it visits the Boston Public Library for its meeting on Sunday, March 2, at 1:45.

The group will assemble in the lobby of the McKim Building facing Copley Square with two activities on the agenda: a tour of the architectural treasure that is the McKim Building, with its restored John Singer Sargeant murals, and a visit to one of the library’s jewels, its Print Department, and its collection of historic and contemporary photography.

Aaron Schmidt, who works with the collection, says he is planning to bring out rarities from several holdings, including its Boston pictorial archive, the largest public collection of early images of Boston, photographs of the American west by Timothy O’Sullivan, A. J. Russell, and Carleton Watkins, and press photography from The Boston Herald Traveler and Leslie Jones, a Herald Traveler staff photographer for four decades, whose collection of 40,000 negatives documents historic events and everyday happenings in Boston from 1917 to 1956.

The library’s Print Department was established in 1941 with the gift of the Albert Wiggin collection of fine-art prints. Photography was consciously excluded from the collection — it lacked respect as a serious art form. That changed in the 1960s, when the curator added photography to the department’s collection mission. A search of the library’s resources revealed that the institution already had substantial holdings of images, and in the years since, gifts have increased it substantially — particularly the 104 file cabinets that contain the photo morgue files of The Boston Herald Traveler.

The photographic collection has been estimated at a million or more images, said Schmidt, but recent reassessment of the Herald-Traveler archive indicates it alone could be as large as 1.4 million photographs.

-From snap shots, March 2008.


Images from the Tour

Photos of tour of BPL by Neil Gordon, Adrian Levesque, Lew Regelman & Joe Walters. Other images from holdings of BPL.


More Information

BPL Print Department

Web site of the Boston Public Library Print Department. Click on Collections at this site to explore the range of their holdings with more samples from the various collections.

1903 World Series

Info about the 1903 World Series at www.baseball-reference.com.

W. H. Jackson at NPS

The National Park Service has an extensive collection of works of William Henry Jackson. Some are on display at the visitor center at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Links to the NPS WHJ collection.

J. W. Black

Wikapedia entry for James Wallace Black. Entry include links to several collections of his work.



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