PITTSBURGH, PA.- Carnegie Museum of Art
announced the award of a $300,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. When matched, the museum will use the funds to endow the position of archivist for the Teenie Harris Archive. The archivist will spearhead research and public access initiatives related to this important repository of African American culture.
Carnegie Museum of Art has established a steering committeeled by community leaders and long-time supporters Judy Davenport, Cecile Springer, and Nancy Washingtonto help raise the required 3-to-1 matching funds. Endowing the archivist position will enable the museum to continue its commitment to the archive, and to the legacy of one of Pittsburgh'sand the nation'sgreat photographers. A freelancer and photographer for the influential Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, Charles "Teenie" Harris produced more than 80,000 images of Pittsburgh's African American community. The photographs, taken from the 1930s to the 1970s, capture a period of momentous change for black Americans, and depict a black urban community that, in spite of segregationist policies and attitudes of mid-century America, was innovative, thriving, and proud. The museum acquired these negatives in 2001 from the Harris estate, and established the Teenie Harris Archive soon afterward.
The archive's distinction arises not only from the extent, quality, and historical importance of its many images, but also because its records and interpretation are based on first-person accounts and accounts from African American scholars and publications. Future archive projects include digitizing approximately 15,000 remaining black-and-white negatives, cataloging and digitizing Harris's work with color film, and cataloging and restoring several thousand feet of 16mm film footage shot by Harris. The archive will also continue to provide images and information for future exhibitions and other uses. "The possibilities are wide open," said Louise Lippincott, curator of fine arts. "Teenie Harris, Photographer broke new ground for us, and we will continue to find new ways to showcase the work of this remarkable artist. The 20112012 exhibition of Harris's work, Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story was the culmination of a 10-year, NEH-funded archiving effort that involved cataloging 70,000 negatives, digitizing over 50,000 images, and gathering oral histories from Harriss contemporaries and some of the subjects of his images. The exhibition toured to Chicago's Harold Washington Library in February, 2012 and will travel to the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Atlanta University Center in January, 2013. It has garnered nationwide recognition for Harris's work as one of the most complete and intimate records of the black urban experience ever created, receiving coverage in national publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, TIME, NPR, and the Economist.
"Endowing positions is a fundraising priority for Carnegie Museum of Art," said Lynn Zelevansky, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art. "Generous grants such as this one allow for the museum's most important projects, like the Teenie Harris Archive, to continue to yield amazing exhibitions and public programming. We are most grateful for NEHs enlightened approach to long-term capacity-building, and will begin raising the remaining funds right after the New Year."
In late winter 2013, Carnegie Museum of Art will inaugurate a new series of rotating displays of Harris's work, providing both an encounter with the ongoing efforts of the archive, and an opportunity for visitors to contribute new information about the imagessubjects, places, people, and reactionsto enrich the archive database and enhance the understanding of Harriss work. At the same time, the museum anticipates the release of an updated, more powerful collection search capability on its web site, allowing access to all digitized images and archive information.