Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gallery Talk: "Something to Remember You By: Memorial Photography"

Post-mortem daguerreotype of a little girl.
Henisch Photo-History Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts

Daguerretype of a young man with folded hands, mounted in a marble stand.
Henisch Photo-History Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts

Commemorative photographic plate of President John F. Kennedy Jr.
Jay Ruby Collection on the Photographic Representation of Death,
Historical Collections and Labor Archives

Anthropologist Examines Photographic Memorials, Including 9/11

“Something to Remember You By: Memorial Photography,” a Special Collections gallery talk by Jay Ruby, will explore the ways in which photographs have been used in the fundamental process of grieving to help us remember the dead. The talk will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6, in Foster Auditorium, 101 Paterno Library on Penn State’s University Park campus. The presentation will also be available for viewing through MediaSite Live at at www.libraries.psu.edu/mtss/ No login is required.

Memorial photography is a logical extension of the primary function of the photograph—to enhance memories of all kinds. Since the mid-19th century, a variety of methods have been used, from daguerreotype cases illustrated with death themes to today’s digital age, where video memorials are produced for funerals, and entire funerals can be viewed on Internet sites. Ruby’s talk will examine photographic memorials from the beginning of photography to the memorials associated with the anniversary of the attacks of 9/11.

Jay Ruby is emeritus professor of anthropology and former director of the graduate program in the anthropology of visual communication at Temple University in Philadelphia. He has been exploring the relationship of visual communication between cultures and pictures for over thirty years. His interests revolve around the application of anthropological insights to the production and comprehension of photographs, film, and television. He has conducted ethnographic studies of pictorial communication in rural Juniata County, PA, and more recently in his hometown, Oak Park, IL.  He has produced award-winning documentaries and is the author of numerous articles and books, including Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America (MIT Press, 1995); The World of Francis Cooper: Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania Photographer (Penn State Press, 1999); and Picturing Culture: Essays on Anthropology and Film (University of Chicago Press, 2000). He is co-editor of the forthcoming Made to Be Seen: Historical Perspectives on Visual Anthropology, to be published by the University of Chicago Press.

The gallery talk will be held in conjunction with a new exhibition in the B.H. Henisch Photo-History Collection Exhibition Room, 201A Pattee Library. The exhibition, also called “Something to Remember You By: Memorial Photography,” draws from the holdings of the B.H. Henisch Photo-History Collection and the Jay Ruby Collection on the Photographic Representation of Death, both housed in the Special Collections Library. The exhibition will open on September 6 and run through January 6, 2012.

[Text by Sandy Stelts]

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