Monday, October 20, 2014

Marriott C. Morris Collection Online

Over the next year, more than 1600 glass negatives, photographic prints, film negatives, and lantern slides by Philadelphia photographer Marriott Canby Morris (1863-1948) will be processed, digitized, and used to create a permanent online exhibition.  This project is being made possible through the generosity of Morris’s grandchildren—David Marriott Morris, Eleanor Rhoads Morris Cox, and William Perot Morris—who wanted to commemorate their ancestor, preserve his remarkable work, and make sure that his photographic legacy would be widely accessible. In addition to giving extensive collections, the Morris family gave generous financial support to ensure that the Library Company had the resources to process and preserve this valuable material on a timely basis.  

The collection, which documents Morris’s travels as well as many aspects of his life in Philadelphia, has long been a favorite of Print Department Staff who produced this blog post inspired by his images in November 2011.  Prominent in the collection are photographs of his Germantown neighborhood, his alma mater Haverford, and his family’s cottage located in Sea Girt and quirkily named Avocado.

Alison Van Denend, who served as Curatorial Intern for the Print Department this summer, is taking on the role of Assistant Project Manager for the Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection.  In addition to processing and digitizing the collection, she will research and curate an online exhibition of Morris photographs.  Fortunately for her, the Library Company also owns Morris’s photographic journals, in which he took copious notes regarding the date, time, lighting, and camera used for many of his prints.

An integral part of the Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection project will be ongoing documentation and dialogue.  Alison will be updating both the Print Department blog and Twitter feed with discoveries, questions, and intriguing images in the weeks and months ahead.  You can follow her progress at and

Light from Dark: Woodcuts Old and New

A new mini exhibition by Conservator Andrea Krupp explores her fascination with historic woodcuts—which speak to her in a language that is abstract, abbreviated, coded, and also timeless—and presents her own original contributions to the conversation. 

Chestnut Street Theatre, Pauvrette! or, Under the snow! … (Philadelphia, 1864)

With a sharp blade, the artist removes wood from the surface of a smooth wooden plank, paring away what is not needed.  What is left is a raised design that will carry the ink to the paper.  The process of working from dark to light (through cutting) forces the artist to make bold, black-or-white choices. It requires directness in both cutting the block and in editing the message that one is trying to convey.

Ercker.  Beschreibung allerf├╝rnemisten mineralischen Ertzt vnnd Bergkwercks (Frankfurt, 1598)

A wide variety of woodcuts crosses Andrea’s desk in the McLean Conservation Department, and she is continually inspired by their immediacy, the clarity of their intent, and their hand-hewn charm.  The work commands attention, even 200 years later, and speaks clearly in a timeless and universal visual language. As an artist and printmaker who makes her own woodcuts, Andrea feels connected with the anonymous makers who came before.  A recent series of original woodcuts, inspired by an artist’s residency in Iceland, expresses the power of the Icelandic landscape and the history embedded in it. 

Andrea Krupp, Mountainside, 2014

Come to the Library Company to see “Light from Dark” in the cases outside the Reading Room through January 2015.  To see more of Andrea Krupp’s original work, visit Twenty-two Gallery  at 236 South 22nd Street in Philadelphia through November 9 for her exhibition “North of Here.”

WWI Graphics on ImPAC

On the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand this June, a consortium of archival institutions in the Delaware Valley launched "Home Before the Leaves Fall:  The Great War," a digital resource highlighting little-known primary source materials relating to World War One. Digital images and descriptions of the contributions to that effort from the Library Company’s collections of 300 unique WWI posters and over 100 photographs are now also available in our digital collections catalog ImPAC, grouped as Posters and Photographs and Ephemera

Beginning in fall of 2013, the Library Company teamed up with several local colleges and cultural institutions including the American Philosophical Society, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the German Society of Pennsylvania, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Independence Seaport Museum, Swarthmore College, the Union League, and Villanova University to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the beginning of World War One by highlighting research resources in the area available for study of the war and its aftermath.

Library Company posters encouraging military recruitment, the purchase of liberty bonds, support for the Red Cross, and home front frugality and our nearly 100 photographs of the Philadelphia Navy Yard and patriotic parades and rallies held around the city were inventoried and digitized for the project through the work of project interns Rebecca Solnit and William Robinson.

Hosted by Villanova University, “Home Before the Leaves Fall” features digitized materials, including images, memoirs, diaries, and periodicals, accompanied by contextual essays, news of commemorative events, interactive data, and geographic information system (GIS) mapping. The project aims to promote the use of these materials to students, scholars, and the public, and to commemorate the services and sacrifices of soldiers and civilians a hundred years ago. Partner organizations will curate and contribute Great War content to the site through 2018.

In addition to the digitized images of our collection materials, the Library Company has contributed several blog posts providing background on this material.  To keep informed about commemorative events throughout the centenary, follow the Print Department on Twitter @LCPPrints.

LCP in Demand in Cyberspace

Partnerships with a range of online publications are giving the Library Company’s collections and curatorial insights new visibility. The Print Department’s charming and informative blog posts began to reach an audience of a whole new magnitude this summer, when Curator of Prints and Photographs Sarah Weatherwax was invited to blog for the Huffington Post about the rich photography collections at the Library Company. Her two posts to dateabout vacationing at the New Jersey Shore and Bob, the beloved dog of Philadelphia photographer William Rauhave received hundreds of “likes,” shares, and retweets. has a huge worldwide following for its wide-ranging coverage of politics, business, entertainment, technology, and the arts, receiving a record high 84 million unique visitors in October 2013. This invitation is a wonderful opportunity to introduce a new audience to the depth of the Library Company’s photographic holdings, and to extend our online audience.  Look for subsequent posts by Sarah monthly.

Closer to home, the Print Department’s collections are also being given a broader audience though a recent collaboration with the Philadelphia Daily News. The partnership began with a visit by Editorial Page Editor Sandra Shea last spring to view photographs depicting impoverished neighborhoods and street scenes in Philadelphia to accompany a series on poverty. 

Shea selected several images to accompany the article entitled “In Ruins: How Philadelphia became the poorest big city in America.” “I was so delighted with how the images in the Library Company were able to enhance our reporting, by providing historical context on the issues facing the city today,” she said. “By helping us reach into the past, the Library Company’s archives added rich texture and dimension to our stories, and we look forward to regular and ongoing collaborations.”

Most recently, Shea contacted the Print Department to find images for a forthcoming article on graffiti in Philadelphia.  Despite the ubiquity of graffiti in today’s streetscapes, before the invention of spray paint graffiti was more subtle as exhibited in the photograph above.  A scorecard handwritten on the brick fa├žade of a house seems to keep tally for someone possibly named “the Bum.”

The Philadelphia Daily News also publicized the digitization of our African Americana collection, completed with funds provided by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education under the Library Services and Technology Act.  Their multi-page article on the collection showcased several images and highlighted the research value of our holdings. 
Finally, when Rebecca Onion of discovered the Guide to the Stranger, or Pocket Companion for the Fancy, on the Library Company’s “Capitalism by Gaslight” exhibition online, she was very taken with this mid-nineteenth century Tripadvisor for brothels. Philadelphia Magazine online made hay from this essay and provided an updated look at the sites reviewed in the Guide. 

Be sure not to miss the next appearance of Library Company materials in cyberspace by following us on Facebook and Twitter!

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