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SC 25

Carpenter Center. Records of the Carpenter Center Photography Collection, 1936-2012: A Guide

Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
The President and Fellows of Harvard College

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: SC 25
Repository: Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
Creator: Carpenter Center
Title: Records of the Carpenter Center Photography Collection, 1936-2012: A Guide
Date(s): 1936-2012
Date(s): 1936-2012
Quantity: 14.22 linear ft. (22 file boxes, 3 oversize boxes, 2 card boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Correspondence, clippings, administrative materials, printed materials, and other records that document the founding and development of the Carpenter Center Photography Collection, including records relating to the American Professional Photographers Collection, Social Museum Collection, and Boston Elevated Railway Project. The Carpenter Center Photography Collection, including the records that document it, was transferred to the Fogg Museum in 2002. The collection was catalogued and administered by Barbara Norfleet and the Harvard Art Museums staff.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

This collection was acquired upon the transfer of the Carpenter Center Photography Collection to the Fogg Museum in 2002, and additional materials were added from 2002-2012.

Processing Information:

The collection was processed in June-August 2016 by Ellen Rullo under the supervision of Megan Schwenke. The finding aid was revised and encoded in 2017 by Michelle Interrante.

Conditions on Access:

Access to most of the Records of the Carpenter Center Photography Collection is unrestricted. Access to sensitive materials may be closed to research as noted in the finding aid. Some Social Museum papers are closed to research until 2062.

Conditions on Use:

Copyright: Copyright in the papers in the collection may be held by the authors of the documents, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museums Archives before publishing quotations from any material in the collection.
Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' usual procedures.

Related Materials

The Carpenter Center Photography Collection photographs are located at the Harvard Art Museums. The Boston Transit Archive is located at Historic New England. The Boston Elevated Railway (BERy) photo collection is located at the Cambridge Historical Commission.

Biography:

Barbara Norfleet (1926-) received a Ph.D. in Social Relations at Harvard University in 1951 and began lecturing at Harvard in 1960. She became the curator of photography at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts in 1972, taking over from its first curator of photography Davis Pratt, who founded the Carpenter Center Photography Collection in 1965. The collection's largest holdings consisted of the Fine Art Photographers Collection, the Social Museum Collection, and the Boston Elevated Railway Negative Collection. Norfleet's interest in the visual documentation of American history lead to the formulation an acquisition of the American Professional Photographers Collection. She considered this collection along with the Social Museum and Boston Elevated Railway Negatives to constitute a "photographic archive" of American photographic social history. Norfleet received National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in 1982 and 1984, which she used to collect and organize the Photography Collection. As an instructor at Harvard, Norfleet lectured on social science and visual and environmental studies, drawing from the Photography Collection for examples of photojournalism and social reform, until her retirement from teaching in 1996. She also showed her own photography in exhibitions such as "All The Right People (1988)," and in print in the publications Manscape with Beasts: Photographs (1990) and The Illusion of Orderly Progress (1999). Norfleet retired as photography curator in 2001.
The American Professional Photographers Collection documents American social history as recorded by professional photography studios in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1975 and 1977, Norfleet received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant that allowed her to visit professional photographers' studios across the country. During these trips, she collected 16,000 negatives and several thousand prints from the photographers to establish the collection. Drawing upon the American Professional Photographers Collection, she curated the exhibitions "Wedding" (1976), "The Champion Pig" (1979), "Killing Time" (1982), "Looking at Death" (1993), and "When We Liked Ike" (2001).
The Social Museum Collection was first assembled by Harvard ethics professor Francis Greenwood Peabody in 1903. He combined it with statistical material documenting the reform efforts of the era to form the Social Museum in 1907. The photographs were transferred to the Carpenter Center beginning in the mid-1960s. Norfleet's exhibition drawing from the Social Museum Collection, "The Social Question," opened at Harvard in 1973. A book on the history of this collection, Instituting Reform, edited by Deborah Martin Kao and Michelle Lamuniere, was published in 2012.
The Boston Elevated Railway Negative Collection documents the historical importance of rapid transit in Boston. The Carpenter Center acquired the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's collection of negatives in 1967, under Pratt's direction. The majority of the collection was donated to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA), now known as Historic New England, and the Cambridge Historical Commission in 1986. 667 glass negatives remained in the Carpenter Center Photography Collection and were transferred to the Fogg Museum in 2002.
The Fine Art Photographers Collection records the history of photography and reflected Pratt's interest in the aesthetic impact of documentary and art photography. He collected many of the 5,000 photographs from other Harvard repositories while simultaneously acquiring prints from modern and contemporary photographers. When Pratt left the Carpenter Center for the Fogg Museum in 1972, where he became the museum's first curator of photography, he focused on collecting the work of established artists. Norfleet continued to add to the collection, but concentrated on photographs that would emphasize the role of aesthetics in documenting American social history.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

The collection is divided into four series: Barbara Norfleet Administrative and Teaching Materials, American Professional Photographers Collection, Social Museum Collection, and Boston Elevated Railway Project. The American Professional Photographers Collection series is further divided into Administrative Records, Exhibitions, and Artist Files. The Social Museum Collection series is further divided into Administrative Records and Exhibitions and Projects.

Scope and Content:

The papers in this collection contain records that document the development of the Carpenter Center Photography Collection, including administrative records and teaching materials from Barbara Norfleet, information on the American Professional Photographers Collection, the Social Museum Collection, and the Boston Elevated Railway Project. The records date from 1936 to 2012. The materials consist of a broad range of items including but not limited to correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs and negatives, notes, and exhibition materials. The Carpenter Center Photography Collection, including the records that document it, were transferred to the Fogg Museum in 2002, and the records are now housed in the Harvard Art Museums Archives.
All materials in the collection have been rehoused into acid free folders and boxes. Folders have been arranged by the processing archivist as there was no original order to the papers upon arrival. Folder titles written by Barbara Norfleet and museum staff have been retained, and any information added by the archivist (titles/dates) has been placed in square brackets. When possible, acidic documents have been isolated from neighboring materials to mitigate damage. Oversized items and catalogue cards have been separated and housed in appropriately sized containers. The location of these items is marked in the finding aid.

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