Photographic Archives showcases portraits of children from Fine Print collection

By Niki King

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — University of Louisville Photographic Archives presents “Fine Young Kids,” a new exhibition featuring portraits of children from the archives’ vast Fine Print collection

Harlem, NYC - Copy

Harlem, NYC, by Leonard Freed

Such critically acclaimed photographers as Leonard Freed, Sally Mann, Bruce Davidson, Bill Carner, Arthur Leipzig, Nicholas Nixon, Barbara Crawford and Ralph Eugene Meatyard took the photos from 1940 through 2012. There are 31 photos in color and black and white.

Assistant curator Marcy Werner artfully arranged the portraits in clusters or in juxtaposition, causing the viewer to consider childhood from differing perspectives: How has childhood changed through the years? How does an American childhood differ from those abroad? How do children process adult values? 

“While many of these photographs appear to be straight portraiture, whimsy or documentation, there is additional meaning in the context of place and pose. Most of these children appear quite aware their photos were being taken. How they chose to present themselves provides relatable moments, if one can remember what it was like to be a kid,” Werner said.

The exhibition is for the young and young-at-heart. Families with children are invited to peruse the portraits and also visit the Multicultural Children’s Literature Collection on the third floor. The collection features thousands of multicultural and diversity-related books and materials for children of all ages.

“Fine Young Kids” is in the Photographic Archives and Kain Rare Books Gallery in the lower level of Ekstrom Library, Belknap Campus, through May 25. Click here for gallery hours, directions and other information.

For more information contact Archives and Special Collections Director Carrie Daniels at 502-852-6752 or

Ekstrom Library Festooned for Dia de los Muertos

A visual feast awaits students, researchers and visitors in Ekstrom Library this week. In celebration of el Día de los muertos, or Day of the Dead, a national holiday celebrated throughout Latin America, traditional kites made by University of Louisville Spanish students hung in the third floor lobby, while altars honoring those who have passed away this year, including David Bowie and Muhammad Ali were set up in the Lower Level and on the first floor.

In Mexico, Día de los muertos is recognized as a National Holiday. The celebration takes place on November 1-2, in connection with the Catholic holidays: All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased and
visiting graves with gifts.

Los barriletes gigantes (giant kites) are a unique tradition in Guatemala. For months, teams work to build giant kites made of bamboo and tissue paper. The designs are incredibly intricate and often hold a political message. On Nov. 1, the giant kites are taken to a sacred hill on the outside of town, overlooking the main cemetery. There is music, dancing, food and general celebration. At dusk, the kites, 6 meters in height and width, are
launched. The high November winds soon tear the kites to pieces, symbolic of the life
and death that all celebrate on el Día de los Muertos.

University of Louisville Spanish students have been studying the diverse ways in which el Día de los muertos is celebrated throughout Latin America. The Ekstrom Library annual event showcases the culmination of these lessons with a small Día de los muertos celebration.

To learn more:

He swings, fans swoon: UofL library displays its renowned Tarzan collection

UofL Archives and Special Collections will display a portion of its enormous Edgar Rice Burroughs collection July 1, just in time for the release of the new “The Legend of Tarzan” film. Burroughs famously created the original Tarzan character and stories.

The Burroughs collection is the largest in the world, with more than 100,000 items such as first-edition books, fanzines, film stills, scrapbooks and posters, games and other memorabilia from the author’s life and works.

Known as “The Grandfather of American Science Fiction” Burroughs penned 63 novels, 21 short stories and 26 literary sketches. Originally writing for pulp magazines, Burroughs quickly mined a deep vein with his Tarzan character by capitalizing on the stories’ success by allowing merchandisers to create knives, bows and arrows, belt buckles, watches, figurines, candy, bread, pop-ups, coloring books and costumes. Many of these items are part of the collection.

Beginning July 1, to synchronize with the movie’s release, ASC will exhibit editions of “Tarzan” in 37 different languages, to emphasize the worldwide appeal of Burroughs’ iconic character. It will be on the first floor of Ekstrom Library, in the west wing across from the circulation desk, and run until Sept. 2, one day after Burroughs’ birthday.

“What better time to showcase some of this important collection, which means so much to the numerous fans of Burroughs, than at the release of another ‘Tarzan’ movie,” said Carrie Daniels, director of Archives and Special Collections. “Just the fact that this story, with an indelible character at the center, prompts a major movie release shows the longevity and imaginative depth of Burroughs’ original tale.”

Most of the collection was donated and curated by Archives and Special Collections Professor and Curator Emeritus George T. McWhorter, as a tribute to his mother, who taught him to read early in life using Burroughs’ stories. The collection is officially named in her honor.

In addition to the displayed exhibit, all items from the collection are available in Archives and Special Collections Research Room, Ekstrom Library, lower level 17. Anyone with a photo ID may view or research individual items 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

For more information, contact Daniels at 502-852-6676 or

Bound Together: Two New Exhibits Highlight the Art of Bookbinding

In an era when tablets and screens compete to replace printed media, it seems important to understand the pleasures and physical intricacies of books. Two exhibits focused on bookbinding structures, held at UofL’s Archives and Special Collections (ASC) and Bridwell Art libraries, aim to enlighten visitors on these pleasures. The two exhibits, “Under Cover: Five Centuries of Bookbinding” and “Folded Books” feature unique and artful bookbinding methods.


Biblio Tech book set. Photo courtesy of Karen Hanmer

Highlighted in “Under Cover” is the art book set Biblio Tech: Reverse Engineering Historical and Modern Binding Structures with a Focus on Board Attachment, created by book artist Karen Hanmer.  This set of model books is designed to be used by students learning new bookbinding structures.  Each of the 12 miniature books is only partially completed, allowing the viewer to see the steps taken to sew and glue the final bindings together.  To compliment these contemporary samples, several finished books will be shown at the ASC Library.

“We chose to purchase Biblio Tech due to the very instructive nature of each model,” said Bridwell Library Director Sarah Carter.  “The set comes with an instruction booklet, which students may use to learn how to sew their own book.  Our entire artist’s book collection, with over 300 items, is a teaching collection.  That means that students may examine them in person, versus looking at them in a display case.”

The book is a recent gift to the Art Library from Guy and Libbye Montgomery, Libraries donors who greatly value physical books, and who wished to support hands-on study for student learning. Another book presented within the ASC exhibit was conserved through the Montgomerys’ funding is a Little Gidding version of the Book of Common Prayer.

“I’m excited to show Bridwell Library’s new book alongside such beautiful and fascinating specimens from Archives and Special Collections,” Carter continued.  “I think that anyone who sees the models side-by-side with a finished example will have a better appreciation for the complexities of bookbinding.”

A companion exhibit, “Folded Books,” will also be on display simultaneously in Bridwell Art Library.  The focus is a small selection of artist’s books which use only glue and folded paper, rather than the sewn bindings emphasized in “Under Cover.”  Unusual bindings, such as flag books, tunnel books, and ox-plow books, will be on display.

“These book structures are aligned with pop-up books, but professional artists use these structures in their work to convey complex ideas that wouldn’t have the same effect in a more traditional format,” said Carter.

Students and faculty may contact Carter to make an appointment to see additional examples of artist’s books.


Under Cover: Five Centuries of Bookbinding

February 1st through April 30th

Archives and Special Collections Library

Ekstrom Library Lower Level


Folded Books: Selections from Bridwell Art Library’s Artist’s Books Collection

February 1st through April 30th

Bridwell Art Library

Schneider Hall 102


New Additions to the Fine Print Collection

The latest exhibit in the Photographic Archives highlights new additions to the fine print collection.

The Photographic Archives works to collect, preserve, and make available for research photographs primarily documenting Louisville and the surrounding region. These locally related photographs uphold the visual history of our city and hold tremendous research value, and as a result they are our most heavily used photographs by visitors to the Archives. But in addition to the expansive collection of local images, the archive also holds a significant collection of fine print photographs.

Steve McCurry - Fishermen at Weligama, South Coast, Sri Lanka, 1995

Steve McCurry – Fishermen at Weligama, South Coast, Sri Lanka, 1995

The definition of a fine print photograph is fluid, though generally fine prints are distinguished from the local historical photographs in our collection in that they were created as art works by photographers who identified as artists, or photographs that have since been recognized as works of art regardless of their original context. Factors including the photographer’s creative vision and evident choices in framing, exposure and presentation often differentiate fine prints from representational images such as documentary and snapshot photographs. Fine print photographs are collected and displayed in museums and galleries around the world, with some being sold at auction for millions of dollars. Held within the Photographic Archives fine print collection are thousands of works — many by masters of the medium such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Margaret Bourke-White, Ansel Adams, and Berenice Abbott.

August Sander - Three Young Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, 1914

August Sander – Three Young Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, 1914

In addition to being displayed in exhibitions, the fine print collection is regularly accessed for teaching purposes with prints being selected and presented to university Art History and Photography classes. The archive adds regularly to the fine print collection through donations and purchases from local galleries and national photography dealers. When choosing prints to add to the collection, we often consider opportunities for teaching by seeking out prints that will help us represent the entire history of photography and its major movements. We also look to collect a wide range of photographic processes as well works by noteworthy photographers.

Barry Andersen - Connemara Mountains, Peat and Sky, Ireland, 2004

Barry Andersen – Sheep and Standing Stone, Avebury, England, 1995

The exhibit “New Fine Prints: Recent Additions to the Collection” is on display now in the Photographic Archives gallery on the Lower Level of Ekstrom Library until March 6, 2015.

Henry Horenstein - Helen Pontani and Peekaboo Pointe

Henry Horenstein – Helen Pontani and Peekaboo Pointe, 2008

All Aboard! Celebrating Archives and Special Collections’ L&N Railroad Collections

On November 6, Archives and Special Collections opens its latest exhibit, “All Aboard!” We are celebrating our L&N Railroad collections — the Photographic Archives collection of L&N photographs (including glass negatives), Rare Books’ early railroad publications, and University Archives’ L&N Railroad Company records. For the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of going through these materials looking for photographs, documents, maps, menus, timetables… all sorts of items that will help tell the story of the L&N.

I was already familiar with the L&N collections, since these records are frequently used by academic historians, community researchers, and train modelers. But preparing this exhibit helped me see it in a whole new way. First, it made me appreciate the tremendous variety and quality of photographs in this collection. As you would expect, there are many pictures of trains – interiors, exteriors, loaded freight cars, locomotives — you name it, and there is a picture of it.

Shop forces with loco 209, ca. 1915

Among my favorites are several shots of workers on and around the locomotives, as in this image of locomotive number 209 in Decatur, Alabama, taken around 1915.





Many of the images were taken for the L&N Magazine.  This one, for example, is from a feature on Mardi Gras that ran in 1948, which included this photograph of a couple dressed as Vikings.Mardi Gras, 1948.









The photographs sometimes include sweet surprises, as with this image of the of Ringling Brother-Barnum and Bailey circus train. If you look closely, you can see elephants reaching their trunks out of the car:

 Barnum & Bailey train, 1969.

Working with the L&N Magazine has also been a special treat. In addition to stories on different cities, it ran features on the different types of freight carried by the railroad: the L&N shipped everything from bananas, peanuts and other types of produce, to coal (lots of coal!), to appliances, to special shipments including “Iron Lungs” and race horses. L&N Magazine, Sept. 1948

The magazine also featured photographs of company sports teams, and shared information about different employees’ hobbies and family events including weddings. It warned workers of possible threats to their safety and their health, including alcoholism and heart attacks. It also profiled employees, departments, and services, helping promote a wider understanding of the tremendous variety of activities going on within this large and multi-faceted organization.

All Aboard! runs through February 7, 2014. Archives and Special Collections is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; we are having a special Sunday showing of the exhibit on Sunday, November 10, from noon to 5:00 p.m.

The Beauty of Card Photograph Mounts

Carte de visite front and back, by Stuber's, ca. 1882-1888

Carte de visite front and back, by Stuber’s, ca. 1882-1888

Card photographs were as ubiquitous in the second half of the nineteenth century as camera phone and Instagram images are today. Primarily albumen prints mounted on card stock, card photos varied in several sizes. First came the carte de visite, French for “visiting card,” in the 1860s. Measuring 2½ x 4 inches, cartes de visite, or CDVs for short, took America by storm and created the world’s first photography craze. For the first time since the introduction of photography in 1839, portrait photographs were available to all classes as they were cheap to make, could be easily copied and sent through the mail without threat of damage. In fact, so many CDVs were sent through the mail as men were off fighting the Civil War, that the US government put a tax on them to help fund the war.

Cabinet card by L. Bergman, ca. 1882

Cabinet card by L. Bergman, ca. 1882

Cabinet cards were a larger version of the CDV, measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches and became very popular after 1870. The larger size allowed for greater decoration of the card mounts which advertised the photographer’s name and address. Gradually the mount designs, known as backmarks, grew larger and more ornate, often including many decorative elements common to Victorian design. Popular motifs included painter’s palettes and brushes with cameras to imply the association of photography with fine art, and the sun to symbolize the photographer’s dependence on light. Gilded borders, scalloped edges, colorful mounts and inks, patterned backgrounds, and highly stylized typography all appeared on the mounts of cartes de visite and cabinet card photographs. Some photographers hired artists to create original designs for their card mounts, but the majority chose designs from catalogs of photo supply companies. As a result, many studios from around the country produced card photographs with similar mount designs and backmarks.

Various carte de visite backmarks, ca. 1865-1890

Various carte de visite backmarks, ca. 1865-1890

Various cabinet card backmarks, ca. 1870-1890

Various cabinet card backmarks, ca. 1870-1890

Card photographs orphaned by their original owners and descendants that can today be found in thrift stores and flea markets may no longer hold the identity of the person pictured, but they can still be admired for their beauty and what they reveal about larger trends in Victorian culture, photography and graphic design. To see many more nineteenth century card photographs created in Louisville, visit the exhibit “Under the Skylight: Louisville’s Nineteenth Century Portrait Studios” in the Photographic Archives gallery from October 10 – November 1.