“Not only is Louisville famous for its annual event at Churchill Downs but it has also become famous for its many social courtesies extended those who visit at Derby time.”
The University of Louisville Libraries’ collections include visual and written documentation of Derby races and parties. Travel back in time to Derbies past through these images freely available in our Digital Collections.
Best of luck finding the perfect turkey…
and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Halloween and All Souls’ Day seem like a good time to talk about corpses and death rites. People all over the world honor their dead around this time of the year – tending the graves of loved ones, and preparing special foods and decorations.
Post-mortem photography is another tradition centered on the dead. While it might seem morbid according to today’s sensibility, the practice of photographing the dead had less to do with fetishizing death than it did with memorializing loved ones. In the early days of photography having an image of your spouse or your children was a rare and expensive luxury. Photographs of the newly departed were often the last (or only) opportunity to create a memento.
Nineteenth century examples frequently showed the deceased posed in lifelike ways, for example, seated with their eyes open. This type of photograph attempted to capture the spirit of the living person. As time went on the poses became more natural with the body recumbent on a bed or in a coffin with eyes shut. Ironically, the more natural the treatment of the corpse, the more the images seemed to be glorifying death rather than memorializing the departed.
The tradition became less popular as photographs became more obtainable. It lingered on, though, developing a stigma of sentimentality and morbidity. With people having more opportunities to get a photograph of their loved ones while they were alive, the “now or never” mentality necessitating post-mortem photography nearly disappeared. The main exception to this was babies and young children. Many of the later examples of post-mortem photography depict infants, presumably because there had been no opportunity to take a photograph while they lived.
A number of photographs from the Royal Photo Company Collection in our Photographic Archives exemplify this tradition near the end of its popularity. These photos are all of the deceased in a coffin and most of them depict babies or children.
While collectively death photography has a certain creepy morbidity, individually the images show something else. Each one shows somebody who was loved enough to be memorialized.
The UofL Photographic Archives recently acquired three photographs by amateur street photographer Vivian Maier for addition to the fine print collection. Though not famous in the canon of photography along the lines of others found in the fine print collection, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus and Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Maier has been the buzz of the photography world for the last few years.
Her work was discovered when two separate men purchased boxes of unknown negatives and undeveloped film from an abandoned storage unit at a Chicago auction house in 2007. Shortly before the name of the photographer and her work began to attract attention, Vivian Maier died in April 2009 at the age of 83. A search for information about Maier revealed that she had worked most of her life as a nanny around Chicago and remained unmarried, having no children of her own. Her former charges described her as an intensely private, proud, opinionated yet very caring woman, who never showed anyone her photographs.
As Maier’s work has come to light through blogs set up by the owners of her archives, it has garnered national acclaim from photography experts, amateurs, fans and casual viewers alike. A master of the “decisive moment,” Maier captured street life in Chicago, New York, and beyond in France, Egypt, Asia and everywhere else she traveled throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s with a distinct sincerity. The quality of her work is undeniable, and the rate of successful images appears staggering. It is no wonder solo exhibitions of Maier’s work have appeared in galleries and museums all over the world, with a book published in 2011 and a documentary about her life impending.
The Photographic Archives is proud to add these three images by Vivian Maier to the collection, and is thrilled that the history of photography continues to evolve in such exciting ways. Come see our collections – we are free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm.
Today’s guest blogger is Pam Yeager from the University of Louisville Libraries Photographic Archives.
Unidentified images in the Photographic Archives provide me with lots of opportunities to indulge my love of getting the story under the surface. But one well-identified photo from a recent acquisition provided some fun and surprises, as well. The Speed Art Museum recently de-accessioned a small group of Louisville photographs. One of these is a photo of a Louisville mansion at 214 W. Broadway that was identified on the back as belonging to William H. Dillingham. Three people sitting on the front steps are almost invisible in the picture, which includes the entire massive façade of the building. Caron’s City Directory for 1885 tells us that Mr. Dillingham owned a woolen mill supplies company at 421 W. Main St. There’s another figure off to the side of the house and farther back – so I assume she is not part of the family – perhaps an employee?By 1905, the residence is listed as owned by J.C. Lewis, and the company on Main St. is not listed. In 1914, Caron tells us that at 214 W. Broadway, Ms. Mattie B. Russell had furnished rooms to let, one of which was occupied by Pauline Bredelli, a music teacher. Perhaps Ms. Bredelli was the connection that led to 214’s next occupant: In the 1916 Directory,the Louisville Conservatory of Music is listed at the address.
From Robert Bruce French’s article about the Louisville Conservatory of Music in The Encyclopedia of Louisville, I learned that the Conservatory opened on September 7, 1915, “in the former Dillingham mansion at 214 W. Broadway.” The Conservatory was a great success, so much so that another larger school was built on Brook St. in 1926-7. But after the Depression hit, student enrollment dropped and the school ultimately declared bankruptcy and closed in 1932. It then merged with the University of Louisville’s part-time (no degrees granted) Department of Music. Faculty and students from the Louisville Conservatory became U of L teachers and students, and in only four years the School was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. French’s article also tells us the Brook St. site is now covered by I 65. And instead of the soaring arches of the Dillingham mansion at 214 W. Broadway, you’ll find a Subway restaurant, across from the more modest golden arches of a McDonalds.
Through October 25, 2012 the photo of the Dillingham mansion is part of Special Collections’ exhibit: “Samuel W. Thomas, Louisville Historian”, in the Photographic Archives gallery. Dr. Thomas used the photograph (when it belonged to the Speed Museum) in his book The Architectural History of Louisville, 1778-1900.
“Libraries exist to preserve society’s cultural artifacts and to provide access to them. If libraries are to continue to foster education and scholarship in this era of digital technology, it’s essential for them to extend those functions into the digital world.” – The Internet Archive
Earlier this year, the University of Louisville Libraries began digitizing and adding texts to our very own corner of The Internet Archive, a nonprofit internet library which provides free, permanent access to digital collections from all over the world. Several of the items we’ve added so far are souvenir booklets containing some wonderful photographs of the city of Louisville from the early 20th century.
Other items include biographies and histories of industries in Kentucky, including one of our most downloaded items to date, Fine Whisky Facts compiled by George C. Buchanan.
The books UofL Libraries have uploaded to The Internet Archive can be viewed in several formats including online, on a Kindle e-reader device, downloaded as a PDF file, etc. UofL’s contributions were scanned and assigned metadata by Sarah Frankel and MARC cataloging records were created by Tyler Goldberg.
Well the finishing touches are being put together for the exhibition celebrating the Photographic Archives’ 50th Anniversary being held at the Cressman Center Gallery and opening this Friday, September 7th. You are all invited!
My first exhibition as Curator happens to be the biggest exhibit for the Photographic Archives in recent history. And why not? 50 years is an important milestone, especially for an academic photography collection. That’s because in 1962 the University of Louisville was at the forefront of the movement to accept and understand photography within the history of art. Now, with over 2 million images, the Photographic Archives is known throughout the world for a very significant collection of documentary, historical, vernacular and fine art photography.
For the exhibition RETROSPECT, we have invited over 30 photographers with ties to the Photographic Archives, Louisville and Kentucky to submit photographs and choose images from the archives to display beside their own work. Artist statements describe the connections between the contemporary work and the images from the archives, often revealing personal connections and inspiration from the photographers, locations, subjects or themes collected in the Photographic Archives. The resulting group of over one hundred photographs on display highlight both the depth of the collections and celebrates the work of contemporary photographers who have been inspired and, in turn, inspire others.
Featuring: Shelby Lee Adams, Don Anderson, Bill Burke, Richard Bram, Michael Brohm, Bill Carner, Mary Carothers, Bruce Cook, Barbara Crawford, Robert Doherty, Mitch Eckert, Julius Friedman, C. Thomas Hardin, Laura Hartford, Bob Hill, Bob Hower, Maggie Huber, Bill Luster, Sarah Lyon, Pat McDonogh, Chris Maynard, Guy Mendes, David Modica, John Nation, Jack Norris, Paul Paletti, Pat Pfister, Steve Plattner, C.J. Pressma, Jon Rieger, Pam Spaulding, Larry Spitzer, Ted Wathen
Cressman Center Gallery
100 E. Main Street
September 7 – October 13
Friday September 7, 6:00-9:00 PM
When working with historical photographs of a town or city, it’s exciting to come across images of recognizable buildings. This is partly why so many people visit the Photographic Archives to search for old photos of their home or street – to compare and contrast the now and then; to get a glimpse into the past of something that is familiar. In fact, looking at old photographs is a great way to learn the history of a city like Louisville, and now websites like Historypin make is very easy to compare old photographs with current-day views according to location.
While comparing images of a location from different eras, I often notice significant architectural differences in the buildings. Usually I see a reduction of ornamentation – which coincides with architectural trends through much of the twentieth century; Victorian and Beaux Art architecture is quite ornate, while later styles like Art Deco, International and Modernism favor more streamlined and functional design. Comparing historic photographs with current day views can reveal the removal of decorative elements such as turrets, parapets, finials and cresting (Fig. 1).
Recently I came across an image of a Louisville building from around 1909 that I recognized. I checked the address and indeed the photograph was of a building that I had photographed last year, on South 4th Street, near the UofL Belknap campus (Fig. 2).
Comparing the historical photograph with the Google Street View of the same address revealed a peculiar change in the building from 1909 to present day: the removal of the top floor! Close inspection shows that the building pictured in the historical photo is the same building that stands today. The placement of the windows, flat arches over the windows, structure of the façade, and the columns all match in both images. However, the brick building contained a third floor in the 1909 photograph, and now only shows two floors. Perhaps a fire could be the cause of this, but it’s a brick building and it’s hard to imagine a fire destroying the top floor entirely… Does anyone have any other ideas for why the third floor may have been removed from this building?
Do you like roadside attractions? Have you ever planned the route of a road trip based solely on stopping to see a bizarre site or oddball statue proclaiming “The World’s Largest (fill-in-the-blank)”? Well I certainly have, and that’s partly why I love the current exhibition up in the Photographic Archives Gallery. All Over the Map: Photographs Across America, 2006-2012 by Steve Plattner includes wonderful photos of some of the most beautiful oddities found along our country’s highways: a tractor-trailer perched high in the air, unique monuments built by dedicated outsiders, giant dinosaurs, a castle constructed of junk, mysterious billboards and other puzzling views. Plattner explains that he is “drawn toward unusual people, places, or things” that he feels “are exceptional, that stand out in some way, that often disappear without a trace.” During a gallery talk, Plattner explained how many of these unique American sites are vanishing and that he is compelled to document them.
Once long distance road travel became popular in the 1930s, businesses sprang up along the stretches of highways to attract the numerous tourists. Many of the businesses added unique attractions such as novelty architecture, colorful monuments, and other features meant to draw in customers. But as air travel surpassed family road trips and many of America’s popular highways, such as Route 66, were passed over for the new Interstate Highway System, the unique mom-and-pop businesses and roadside attractions waned in popularity. Plattner commented that many of the sites in his photographs have changed or even disappeared in the years since he shot them. So… come visit the exhibit before both the photographs and the attractions disappear!
All Over the Map: Photographs Across America, 2006-2012 by Steve Plattner will be on exhibit through June 29, 2012. The University of Louisville Photographic Archives Gallery is located in Ekstrom Library, Lower Level. We are open Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
Check out the complete run of UofL yearbooks online at