Princeton University Art Museum announces online access to vast Minor White photographic archive

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Princeton University Art Museum announces online access to vast Minor White photographic archive
Minor White, American, 1908–1976, San Francisco, August 14, 1949. Gelatin silver print. The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, bequest of Minor White. © Trustees of Princeton University.

PRINCETON, NJ.- More than 5,000 images and related photographic material by the seminal American modernist Minor White are now available on the Princeton University Art Museum website. The two-year digitization and cataloging project, which began in 2014 and was funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), provides online access for the first time to the most significant photographic content of the Minor White Archive – including over 6,000 finished prints, artist’s proof cards, and bibliographic history – and represents the foundation for a centralized authoritative resource for White research and scholarship.

The launch of the Minor White Archive website concludes the second phase of the Museum’s ongoing initiative to fully digitize and share the White archive, which first came to Princeton as a gift of the artist in 1976. With future support, the entire archive of more than 26,000 assets (including 19,000 artist’s negatives and 7,000 undocumented finished photographs, as well as the artist’s entire archive of correspondence, personal and published writings and exhibition notes) will be made available online, serving as the single most comprehensive guide to White’s photographic process and career.

Minor White (1908–1976) was one of the most important photographic artists and teachers active during the 30 years after World War II, and a key figure in shaping a distinctly modern American photographic style. The most important collection of primary source material in existence by and about the artist, the archive contains White’s negatives, proofs, contact sheets, journals, library, correspondence, ephemera and nearly 20,000 prints by White and other artists. The Princeton University Art Museum holds the copyright to all of this work.

The White archive is one of several photographic archives held by the Princeton University Art Museum, which is considered one of North America’s foremost teaching collections of historical photographs.

“Thanks to funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Princeton University Art Museum has at last been able to make this extraordinary resource publically available, and to advance the study and discovery of Minor White’s remarkable artistic achievement and legacy,” noted James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “Our responsibility to this artist demands such a step, through which global online visitors will be able to access and search White’s most important work, with more images and documents to follow as the project progresses.”

The launch of the new Minor White Archive website is part of the Art Museum’s recently established Minor White Project, a comprehensive effort to consider and deploy opportunities to exhibit, publish, research, acquire and reconsider White’s work and legacy. The Minor White Project is overseen by Katherine Bussard, the Peter C. Bunnell Curator of Photography at the Princeton University Art Museum, supported by an advisory committee comprising experts from the field whose inaugural membership includes Peter C. Bunnell, the David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art Emeritus; Joshua Chuang, the Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Associate Director for Arts, Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library; Brendan Fay, Assistant Professor of Art History, Art Department, Eastern Michigan University; Cathryn Goodwin, Manager of Collections Information, Princeton University Art Museum; Emmet Gowin, artist and Professor Emeritus of the Council of the Humanities and Visual Arts, Princeton University; Jeff Rosenheim, Curator and Head of the Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art; James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director, Princeton University Art Museum; and Jeff Whetstone, artist and Professor of Visual Arts, Princeton University.

Minor White’s archive entered the Museum’s collections during the nearly 30-year tenure of curator Peter C. Bunnell, who was a former student of White’s. In 1989, Bunnell curated Minor White: The Eye That Shapes, which interpreted White’s photographic achievements in relation to past photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams and Paul Strand, and traveled to six other venues, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

A resurgence of interest in Minor White’s work in recent years has led to several notable projects focusing on his work and influence. Aperture Magazine Anthology: The Minor White Years, 1952–1976, edited and with an introduction by Peter C. Bunnell, was published in 2012. Recent special exhibitions have included Minor White: Poetic Form at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2013); the J. Paul Getty Museum’s sweeping career retrospective and accompanying publication (2014); and a major touring exhibition organized by the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego (2015-16). All of these projects have been facilitated by the resources of the Minor White Archive at the Princeton University Art Museum.

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