MoMA Announces Completion of Four-Year Research and Conservation Initiative

Art Press Release from United States. Published by MOMA on Tuesday 02 December 2014.

The project is the result of a four-year collaborative project between the Museum’s departments of Photography and Conservation, with the participation of over two dozen leading international photography scholars and conservators, making it the most extensive effort to integrate conservation, curatorial, and scholarly research efforts on photography to date.

The project is composed of multiple parts: a website that features a suite of digital-visualization research tools that allow visitors to explore the collection, make queries, and discover connections themselves, supported by in-depth information on each photograph and an anthology of essays by scholars on selected themes and pictures; a hard-bound paper catalogue of the entire Thomas Walther collection, with extensive scholarly contributions; an interdisciplinary symposium focusing on ways in which the digital age is changing our engagement with historic photographs; and a related exhibition of works from the Thomas Walther Collection, which is the first full presentation of this remarkable collection.

In 2001, MoMA acquired 341 photographs from Thomas Walther’s private collection, featuring iconic works by such seminal figures as Berenice Abbott, Karl Blossfeldt, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Claude Cahun, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Florence Henri, André Kertész, Germaine Krull, El Lissitzky, Lucia Moholy, László Moholy-Nagy, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Maurice Tabard, Umbo, and Edward Weston, along with lesser-known treasures by more than 100 others.

In 2010, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave the Museum a grant to encourage deep scholarly study of the Walther Collection and to support publication of the results. Led by the Museum’s departments of Photography and Conservation, the project elicited productive collaborations among scholars, curators, conservators, and scientists, who investigated all of the factors involved in the making, appearance, condition, and history of each of the 341 photographs in the collection. The broadening of narrow specializations and the cross-fertilization between fields heightened appreciation of the singularity of each object and of its position within the history of its moment. Creating new standards for the consideration of photographs as original objects and of photography as an art form of unusually rich historical dimensions, the project affords both experts and those less familiar with its history new avenues for the appreciation of the medium.

The project is led by Maria Morris Hambourg, Senior Curator of the Thomas Walther Collection Project and Founding Curator, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Jim Coddington, Agnes Gund Chief Conservator, Conservation Department, MoMA. The project is directed by Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, MoMA; and Lee Ann Daffner, Andrew W. Mellon Conservator of Photographs, MoMA.