Working alongside the Photography Collections Preservation Project, the Library of Congress recently announced that it has acquired nearly 100,000 photographs, negatives, and transparencies by Harlem-based African American photographer Shawn Walker. Depicting the rich culture of the New York City neighborhood, the collection spans nearly six decades from the 1960s to the present and is the first comprehensive archive of an African American photographer to join the national library.
Walker also donated a 2,500-piece collection of audio recordings, images, and ephemera representing the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers established in 1963. Self-identifying as a “fine arts photographer with a documentary foundation,” Walker was born and raised in Harlem and has worked to capture the neighborhood as he sees it.
“I look for the truth within the image, the multi-layers of existence and the ironies in our everyday lives,” he said in a statement to PCPP. “Working from a Black Aesthetic, my work tries to speak to everyone. For more than 50 years, I have tried to reflect on the positive aspects of my community and to see the relationships between various communities of color.”
“We are very pleased to celebrate the addition of these two important collections to the Library’s extensive representation of African American life in the United States, from photography’s earliest formats to the present day,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. The New York Times reports that once organized, Walker’s archive will be made available to view via appointment. Some of his photography along with works by 14 other Kamoinge Workshop members will also be exhibited this summer (July-October 2020) at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Share this story
150,000 Botanical and Animal Illustrations Available for Free Download from Biodiversity Heritage Library
Billed as the world’s largest open access digital archive dedicated to life on Earth, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is comprised of animal sketches, historical diagrams, botanical studies, and various scientific research collected from hundreds of thousands of journals and libraries around the globe. In an effort to share information and promote collaboration to combat the ongoing climate crisis, the site boasts a collection of more than 55 million pages of literature, some of which dates back to the 15th century. At least 150,000 illustrations are available for free download in high-resolution files.
Among the collections is a digital copy of Joseph Wolf’s The Zoological Sketches, two volumes containing about 100 lithographs depicting wild animals housed in London’s Regent’s Park. Wolf originally sketched and painted the vignettes in the mid-19th century. Other diverse works range from a watercolor project detailing flowers indigenous to the Hawaiian islands, to a guide for do-it-yourself taxidermy replete with illustrated instructions published in 1833.
The library also offers a variety of tools, including search features to find species by taxonomy and another option to monitor online conversations related to books and articles in the archive. Consistently adding collections to the public domain, the organization currently is working on a project to promote awareness of the field notes available from the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the Smithsonian Libraries, and the National Museum of Natural History.
Share this story
This recent discovery in the Collingwood Archive of the Cardiff University Special Collections purrfectly catalogs a young girl’s childhood quirks. A handmade book by Janet Gnosspelius contains every one of her cats’ whiskers found in her home from 1940 to 1942. Gnosspelius wove the whiskers into the pages, dated, and noted how each was discovered, whether “while playing darts,” “under edge of lino in pantry,” on the “dining room hearthrug,” or “under back door draught protector.”
Gnosspelius was the daughter of artist and sculptor Barbara Collingwood and the granddaughter of W.G. Collingwood, John Ruskin’s secretary, and was one of the first women to attend the Liverpool School of Architecture. Archivists say the meticulous nature Gnosspelius exhibited in creating her book remained throughout her life as she worked in “local history and building conservation, regularly posting samples of masonry to Liverpool City Planning Office, neatly labelled with their provenance and date, demanding their restoration.”
At age 40, Gnosspelius channeled her creative energy once again into creating a special diary documenting the lives of her feline friends. “The diary is no ordinary one,” a note to Colossal from archivists reads. “It is written from the perspective of her beloved ginger cat Butterball, recording the dates of his fights, illnesses, and stays with friends: ‘9 March 1965: wrapped my mouse in the mat outside kitchen door.'” More information about Gnosspelius’s family history is available in this online exhibition.
Share this story
Washington-based artist and researcher Heidi Gustafson forages, processes, and catalogs natural mineral samples for the Early Futures Ocher Archive. Ranging in color based on its elemental structure, ochre is crushed into a powder and used in various applications from art to medicine. With over 550 samples, Gustafson’s ever-growing archive has become a collaborative project with contributions from archaeologists, scientists, and creatives from around the world.
As each sample enters the collection, it is labeled with a corresponding number. In a notebook, Gustafson records where the ochre is from, who sourced or collected it, any historic or contemporary uses, and other relevant information. Gustafson grinds the iron-rich ochre into pigments, which she sells to artists and also uses for her own work. Processed samples are added to glass vials and organized by region or dominate mineral type. Gustafson also considers the material for its artistic, spiritual, and scientific properties. “More importantly, I build a relationship to the materials,” she tells Colossal. “I’m trying to understand their unique behaviors, the microbial communities they host and support, their tonal ranges, their historical uses and many other diverse features.”
The archive was officially formed in 2017 when Gustafson relocated to the Pacific Northwest, but working with the material is more than a hobby or intellectual pursuit—it is a calling. After having a dream about ochre, she initially wrote it off. Other experiences and anxieties about climate change inspired her to research exactly what ochre was and what it was used for. “I realized that ochre and pigments were at the heart of art and aesthetic experience,” Gustafson tells Colossal, adding that the mineral has been linked to complex mental processing in modern homo sapiens. “Protecting ochre’s vast capacities and impact on human creativity, feels like Earth’s mandate to me,” Gustafson continued. “I didn’t ‘come up’ with the idea for this project, it came to me and I felt responsible to do my best to understand and listen to that call.”
To tag along on foraging trips and for updates on the archive, follow Heidi Gustafson on Instagram. To shop for pigment sets and other products from the project or to contribute samples of your own, visit the Early Futures website.
Share this story
The Art Institute of Chicago Now Offers Unrestricted Access to over 52,000 High-Resolution Images from Their Collection
The Art Institute of Chicago recently announced the release of tens of thousands of images from their collection to the public domain, providing high resolution access to the thick paint strokes of Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” the eerie light of Edvard Munch’s “The Girl by the Window,” or the pointillism used in George Seurat’s famous “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884.″ The works have been made available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which presents the works without copyright. Visitors to the Art Institute’s website also can experience enhanced viewing for each image by zooming in on the paintings, drawings, and other artworks with more detail than before. The current image count is at 53,438, however the Art Institute explains that this number will continue to expand regularly. You can begin your dig into their vast store of artworks by visiting this online research tool. (via Hyperallergic)
Share this story
Towering above the trees in a densely forested area of Indonesia lies a giant chicken. The gigantic structure has the body, tail, and head of the bird, even holding open its beak in what appears to be mid-squawk. Although the very old bird is quickly decaying, Gereja Ayam (as the locals call it) attracts hundreds of photographers and travelers to its location in Magelang, Central Java each year who are looking to explore the bird’s bizarre interior.
The building was originally built as a prayer house by 67-year-old Daniel Alamsjah after he received a divine message from God. Although he intended the building to resemble a dove, the locals care more that it looks like a chicken, nicknaming it “Chicken Church.” In addition to a prayer house, Alamsjah also used the building as a rehabilitation center, treating disabled children, drug addicts, and others. Alamsjah was forced to shut the center’s doors fifteen years ago after steep construction costs.
Currently five of the eight pillars holding up the building are crumbling while graffiti covers the inside walls. No longer a place for therapy, the building still serves as a place for worship and travel and according to locals—a private spot for many young couples to hide away from parents or prying eyes. (via Hyperallergic and Daily Mail)
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Food
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.