Friday, June 11, 2010

AHPCS Pittsburgh Meeting

On May 20 to 22, the American Historical Collectors Society held their annual conference in Pittsburgh. The conference, run superbly by Marilyn Bruschi, was filled with good company, interesting talks, and visits to some of Pittsburgh excellent institutions.

On Thursday we visited the Senator John Heinz History Center. The history center is the largest history museum in Pennsylvania and even includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. We had a couple of interesting presentations by the Anne Madarasz, the Museum Division Director, and David Grinnell, the chief archivist. The library, archives and museum include a large number of rare views and books on Pittsburgh history and I spent many, many hours there researching Panorama of Pittsburgh. It was fun to get to revisit the History Center and for other members of the AHPCS to see what a great resource and fun museum it is.

At the end of the afternoon, we were the guests of Bruce Wolf at the famous Duquesne Club, founded in 1873, which has an impressive collection of paintings by local Pittsburgh artists, especially David Gilmour Blythe. The centerpiece in the visit was the viewing of the remarkable 1859 bird's eye view of Pittsburgh by James T. Palmatary. This is the only known example of this print and it was "discovered" and researched by Bruce, with help by AHPCS member John Reps.

Friday was a very busy day filled with exhibitions and lectures. We started at the Carnegie Museum of Art, where we heard scholarly lectures on natural history illustrations in 19th century museum journals, by Bernadette Callery, and on sheet music covers by Mariana Whitmer, from the Society for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh. While I know a reasonable amount about both subjects, I found the lectures filled with interesting facts and insights. Following, I presented a lecture about one aspect of views of Pittsburgh I noticed while writing Panorama of Pittsburgh, viz. that an awful lot of these prints were simply copied from previously issued prints. This happens everywhere, but seemed particularly common in Pittsburgh.

After lunch, we were treated to viewings of a number of wonderful exhibits at two of Pittsburgh's great institutions. We started at the Carnegie, where we viewed an interesting exhibit on "Sixteenth Century Tapestries and Related Prints," and an exhibit I particularly enjoyed on "Cariacature, Satires and Comedy of Manners," featuring prints by Hogarth, Daumier and Francisco Jose de Goya. Amanda Zehnder, who put together this thoughtful, fun and visually excellent exhibit, gave a personal tour, which was universally enjoyed. Following this we went to another Pittsburgh gem, the Hunt Botanical Library at Carnegie Mellon University, were we hear Lugene Bruno talk about botanical printmaking and were able to visit the library and its current exhibition. These exhibits are still up and I highly recommend them to anyone near Pittsburgh.

After this exhausting day, AHPCS members had the chance to explore some of Pittsburgh's superb restaurants and a number of us took the incline up to the top of Mt. Washington, where the view of Pittsburgh is unsurpassed. Unfortunately, I had to leave early the next morning before our visit to my favorite Pittsburgh institution, the Frick Art & Historical Center, the sponsoring institution for both the exhibit and book, Panorama of Pittsburgh. I was especially sorry to miss the presentation by George Nama, a friend who happens to be the most knowledgeable expert on Pittsburgh prints, as well as a terrific artist in his own right. I heard reports that his talk was wonderful, which would make it a fitting end to a wonderful annual conference!

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