Opening on August 19, 2014, more than 100 photographic prints from the Margaret Bourke-White collection will return home to Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) this fall. To mark the occasion, the Libraries will host an exhibition entitled Context: Reading the Photography of Margaret Bourke-White, curated by Special Collections Senior Director Sean Quimby. Simultaneously, SUArt Galleries will present a complementary exhibition Margaret Bourke-White: Moments in History 1930-1945, curated by Oliva Maria Rubio of La Fábrica (Madrid, Spain). Syracuse is the final stop on the world-wide exhibition tour for Moments in History, which has appeared in Berlin, Copenhagen, Munich, and the Hague.
The Libraries’ Margaret Bourke White collection is one of the most outstanding photojournalism collections in the country. Bourke-White was the first female war correspondent and the first female photographer for Life magazine, where one of her photographs appeared on the first cover. Her photographs of the American South during the Great Depression were taken several months before the Farm Security Administration photographers began their work in earnest. She was the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry in the 1930s. In 1941, when the first German bombs fell on Moscow, Bourke-White was the only foreign photojournalist in the city. Bourke-White also chronicled of the fight for India’s independence and the resulting formation of Pakistan. Many of her images are unforgettable, such as the ones she took following the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp by American troops, or her photographs of Gandhi at the spinning wheel. A pioneer in architectural and industrial photography and dedicated advocate of social reform, Bourke-White captured thousands of indelible images and authored more than ten books during her lifetime.
At the time of her death in 1971, Margaret Bourke-White gave her entire archive to Syracuse University. The collection contains some 19,000 negatives, approximately 24,000 prints, and 44 linear feet of manuscript material (including extensive correspondence, job files, financial files, and personal papers). “The collection documents the life and work of this remarkable photojournalist whose images have become part of our historical consciousness,” says Special Collections curator Lucy Mulroney. Reflecting the scope of her influence and career, the Bourke-White Collection includes correspondence from artists Georgia O’Keeffe and John Vassos; authors Sherwood Anderson and Theodore Dreiser; industrial clients Bethlehem Steel Company and Ford Motor Company; journalists Edward R. Murrow and Dorothy Thompson; photographers Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange; and world leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Select programming associated with the exhibitions includes:
- a public lecture “Lightness: In the Air with William Faulkner and Margaret Bourke-White” by art historian Alexander Nemerov (Stanford University) on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m., co-sponsored by Syracuse Symposium™ in the SU Humanities Center;
- a mini-seminar will be led by Dr. Nemerov in the SCRC on October 2 at 10 a.m.;
- a tour of Margaret Bourke-White: Moments in History 1930-1945 in the SUArt Galleries with Lucy D. Mulroney on Friday, Oct. 10 at 2 p.m.
These lectures are free and open to the public. Preregistration is required for the mini-seminar.
The Special Collections Research Center, located on the sixth floor of Bird Library, is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit http://library.syr.edu/find/scrc/programs/.