Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Men in the Young Republic

I have been a bit remiss in keeping this blog up-to-date with announcements of good print exhibitions, both in the physical and virtual worlds. Luckily, there is a fine, new online exhibit which I can call to your attention.

This is the American Antiquarian Society's exhibit, Men in the Young Republic. The AAS has a number of excellent exhibits on their web site, including the terrific Beauty, Virtue and Vice: Images of Women in Nineteenth-Century American Prints and this new exhibit maintains the high quality of the others.

The theme of the exhibit is a look at the depiction of American men and their world in popular prints from the first half century of the United States. There are sections on their home life, occupations, associations, fashions and recreations. The exhibit was curated by Sally Pierce, curator of prints and photographs at the Boston Athenaeum and editor of the American Historical Print Collectors Society's journal, Imprint.

Sally was recently interviewed for the AHPCS's News Letter about some of issues involved with online exhibitions. Excerpts from this interview follows (note that if you join the AHPCS, you would get both the newsletter and journal with your membership...):

News Letter (NL): How did you translate your selections [of prints for the exhibition] for a web audience--was it different?
Sally Pierce (SP): The process was a little different in preparing for the web....With physical space all elements come into play--size, harmony, orientation, color and style, while in the online space, you have different considerations. One they they have in common is attention to the condition of the items; there were some items I wanted to include, but the condition was so poor that it would not make for a good representation. This is especially true online as you want viewers to be attracted to the images enough to come and see them in person.

NL: Physical exhibits are noted for their abiity to inspire--did you keep this in mind for views?
SP: One exciting thing about online exhibitions is that, as a curator, you are freed from physical constraints of size--everything is equalized on the screen. So a large print and a book illustration can be displayed at the same dimensions. I believe this has an impact.

NL: As you have worked in galleries and museums, what challenges do you feel there are when moving exhibitions online?
SP: Well, for one you are looking at a surrogate of the item--which is great for getting your point across--but what you lose when not looking at a physical object is the connoisseurship of knowing different mediums, feels, tones etc. If one wants to be an art historian or a collector, the online environment does not move you forward enough to develop essential skills; or if you are an historian, it doesn't necessarily help you to envision the actual object. I'm not arguing that the web doesn't equal information, but to gain a deeper understanding, you need the object. On the flip side, the web presents the opportunity to bring people in to see your collection and online exhibitions can be great advertising.

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