Selections from the Picture File
The Tomb in the Corner of the Garden: Selections from the Picture File is an exhibition of photographs found in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Picture File of visual material. The Picture File spans nearly four centuries and contains over 6,000 photographs, postcards, leaflets, illustrations, and other kinds of two-dimensional print ephemera that became separated from larger manuscript collections or were individually acquired. These disparate photographs were given new homes under alphabetized subject headings. In the days before the internet, the Picture File offered researchers a visual answer to a query. The file grew through the 1980s, when it became much easier to mass reproduce prints and photographs.
This exhibition brings together a small slice of images from this massive collection to highlight images that, as William Henry Fox Talbot describes in “The Pencil of Nature”, suffer most from “the injuries of time and weather.” These injuries are apparent as folds, scuffs, tears, hole-punches, dog-eared corners, chemical changes, handwrititen notes, hand-coloring, and airbrushing. One could consider these traces of time as a kind of deterioration. However, I believe that these materials have just collected more meaning and information over time through age and use.
-Aaron Canipe | 2015-2016 William G. Gedney Intern, Archive of Documentary Arts