Category Archives: Museum object collection

Stony Island Arts Bank

“How do we start to imagine ourselves as deeper caretakers of the things that exist in the world?” —Theaster Gates
In 2012 Gates purchased the Stony Island Trust & Savings Bank for one dollar. Today, “the Stony Island Arts Bank is a hybrid gallery, media archive, library and community center … built in 1923, the bank … had closed and the building remained vacant and deteriorating for decades. Reopened in October 2015, the radically restored building serves as a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage.” —

Forget about the $30 million sale of the Johnson Publishing’s historic Ebony and Jet magazine photo archive, the Johnson Publishing Archive + Collections was donated, free of charge, to the Arts Bank collection.

“The archive features more than 15,000 items including books, periodicals, ephemera, paintings, and sculpture, along with original furnishings and interior design elements custom-designed for JPC’s downtown Chicago offices by Arthur Elrod.”

The library, including complete runs of Jet and Ebony along with African history, American literature, and more, is open to all researchers.

Other collections include the University of Chicago glass magic lantern slides, over 60,000 slides of art and architectural history from the Paleolithic to Modern eras.

“In 2009, the Visual Resources Center’s historic collection of lantern slides at the University of Chicago was digitized and donated to artist Theaster Gates. Since then, a public digital collection has been made available online, the physical slides have been a part of several artist projects, and now the collection is permanently housed in the new Stony Island Arts Bank, a cultural venue for the community on the South Side of Chicago.”

They also quietly house the Edward J. Williams Collection: 4,000 objects of “negrobilia” – mass cultural objects and artifacts that feature stereotypical images of black people., and Frankie Knuckles Records: “Godfather of House Music,” Frankie Knuckles’ vinyl collection. “Frankie Knuckles, a club disc jockey, remixer and producer who was often called the “godfather of house” for helping that percussive genre of dance music spread from Chicago nightclubs to global popularity and influence, died on Monday at his home in Chicago. He was 59.”–

The Stony Island Arts Bank is several blocks south of the site of the Chicago Columbian Exposition and the upcoming Barack Obama Presidential Center The New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA), who designed Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, will design President Barack Obama’s presidential library.

This October 2019 Gates brings his Black Artist Retreat, an annual event in Chicago, to New York for a two-day event including roller skating, music and performances.–

see more: The HistoryMakers video oral history with Theaster Gates

The Faculty of the Early Sixties

111 years ago, the June 6 Daily Princetonian Extra reported that a bronze plaque was commissioned by Princeton University students in honor of the 12 men who had been their professors:

Among the events of especial interest during Commencement week, two ceremonies took place today which marked an addition to the memorials of Princeton classes. At twelve o’clock the Class of ’63, which celebrates its forty-fifth anniversary this year, unveiled in Marquand Chapel a bronze tablet inscribed “To the Faculty of the Early Sixties.” This event was followed at 2 p. m. by the breaking of ground for the new ’77 Dormitory. The Class of ’77 will give the dormitory at a total cost of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and the exercises to-day marked the commencement of what will be one of the most costly buildings of its kind on the campus.

The Faculty of the Early Sixties. John Maclean (President and Chemistry, portrait at the top); Joseph Henry (Natural Philosophy); Stephen Alexander (Astronomy); Matthew B. Hope (Belles-Lettres); James C. Moffat (Greek and History); Lyman H. Atwater (Philosophy); Arnold Guyot (Geology); George Musgrave Giger (Latin); John T. Duffield (Mathematics); J. Stillwell Schanck (Zoology); Joshua H. McIlvaine (English Language and Literature); Henry C. Cameron (Greek). In grateful remembrance of the characters, the lives, and the teaching of those whose names are hereon inscribed this tablet is erected by their former students surviving members of the class of 1865 -June 6, 1908.


Marquand Chapel was destroyed by fire during house party weekend in 1920 and for several years, worship services were held in Alexander Hall. The bronze tablet hung in various other locations until now, when it has been permanently sited in Firestone’s new Emeritus Faculty Reading Room.

In 2016 eighteen faculty members were transferred to emeritus; in 2017 nineteen faculty became emeritus; in 2018 fifteen transferred to emeritus… It’s surprising the room is still empty.

Happy Birthday Walt Whitman

“When Whitman finally died, among those first notified by his secretary-friend Traubel, was Eakins himself. He and a former student, [Samuel] Murray, came a final time to 328 Mickle Street. They’d arrived equipped to make Walt’s plaster death mask. Afterwards, the loyal secretary-disciple surveyed the old man’s body. He noted how, though the snowy drift of beard had been caked and disarrayed by Eakins’ work, there was no more damage than a slight reddening at the bridge of Walt’s nose. Such care had Tom taken. Whitman had requested that his young painter-friend be pallbearer at the funeral attended by thousands.”—Allan Gurganus, “The Lessons of Likeness.” This lecture was originally delivered on March 8, 2008, as part of the “American Pictures” program sponsored by Washington College, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Samuel Aloysius Murray (1870-1941) assisted by Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins (1844-1916), Walt Whitman death mask, May 31, 1819. Plaster. Laurence Hutton Collection

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman


I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.


Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded
with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation,
it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the pass-
ing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and
dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies
of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields
and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from
bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d
the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin
of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

The return of the White Sun

After many long years renovating and reconfiguring Firestone Library, Isamu Noguchi’s White Sun has returned to the Firestone front lobby. Created in 1966 and installed in 1970, Noguchi’s beautiful work is part of Princeton’s Putnam Collection of Sculpture, under the campus art collections managed by Lisa Arcomano.

The Putnam Collection of Sculpture is a memorial to John B. Putnam, Jr. ’45, Lieutenant U.S.A., who was killed in World War II. It consists of the works of twenty major twentieth-century sculptors purchased in 1969 and 1970 through a fund given by an anonymous donor.

These sculptures were selected by a committee of alumni who were directors or former directors of art museums: Alfred H. Barr, Jr. ’21 (Museum of Modern Art), Thomas P. F. Hoving ’53 (Metropolitan Museum of Art), P. Joseph Kelleher Ph.D. ’47 (The Art Museum, Princeton University), William M. Milliken ’11 (Cleveland Museum of Art).

John B. Putnam, Jr. ’45, who came to Princeton from Cleveland, Ohio, left college at the end of his sophomore year to enlist in the Army Air Corps. He made a brilliant record as a squadron flight leader with the Eighth Fighter Command in England, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters. He was killed in a crash in England shortly after D Day in 1944.

Welcome home.

Peep Egg

The “peep egg” is such a popular item when classes come to see the pre-photographic optical devices in the Graphic Arts Collection that we have acquired a second example. This alabaster viewer is loaded with two prints of Barmouth and its vicinity from around 1850, along with tiny examples of the crystals, stones, and dried plants in the area. Traditionally, these devices were given or sold as souvenirs.

This viewer is approximate 123 x 72 mm, with a convex lens and two turned knobs. The words, “Present from Barmouth,” are painted on one side with floral decorations. One person at a time looks into the lens and turns the handles to see each of the views. Because the translucent alabaster allows light to pass through it, no outside light source is necessary.

According to the atlas, Barmouth is a town in the county of Gwynedd, north-western Wales, lying on the estuary of the River Mawddach and Cardigan Bay. The Welsh form of the name is derived from “Aber” and the river’s name “Mawddach.”

Jean-Paul Marat

The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks at Princeton has two casts of Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793), a politician, physician, scientist, and radical voice during the French Revolution. Both were poured from the same mould as the original in the Musée Carnavalet, Paris.

In his Talks in a Library, Hutton reports,

“This mask … is known to have been made after death “by order of the National Assembly,” and the originals of those … are in the Musée Carnavalet, the Civic Museum of Paris; Marat in plaster being the exact counterpart of Marat in oils by David, painted from nature immediately after the assassination. The amiable Miss Corday did a good thing for France and for humanity and for the rights of man when she removed Marat from trials and temptations. And it is to be regretted that she did not begin earlier in her career. There can be very little doubt that the Marat, whom she stabbed in the bath, as depicted by David, was the Marat of real life as the cast in my collection embalms him for the inspection of generations yet unborn.’

Marat [was] buried for a time in the Pantheon at Paris; but they were soon “de-Pantheonised” by order of the National Assembly. Marat’s body was thrown into a common sewer… Revenge upon the bones of a dead enemy may be sweet, but it can hardly be savoury.”–Laurence Hutton, Talks in a Library with Laurence Hutton (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1911).

In Portraits in Plaster, Hutton adds, “Marat and Robespierre are among the most enigmatical productions of a very enigmatical movement. During their lives they were not very beautiful in conduct nor very amiable in character; but the casts taken of their faces after their uncomfortable deaths are quiet and peaceful, and the effect they produce is one of loving rather than loathing.

In the mask of each the cerebral development is small, especially in the region of the frontal bone; and phrenological experts who have examined them say that their development, or lack of development, taken with their facial traits, indicates ill-balanced minds.”–Laurence Hutton, Portraits in Plaster: from the Collection of Laurence Hutton (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1894). Laurence Hutton Collection NB1293.H97




Britannia Set Me Free

Thanks to Steven Knowlton, Librarian for History and African American Studies, the Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired this oval framed plaque with a wax figure of a crouching slave in chains appealing to the representation of Britannia, with “Britannia set me free” lettered above the slave and a ship in background. The interior measures 90 by 90 mm, painted on ceramic or ivory with gilt mount, all in a contemporary turned wooden frame. [Great Britain, ca. 1830].

Quote taken from the dealer’s catalogue:

The image adapts the iconic design of the crouching figure with the motto “Am I not a man and a brother” first produced as a jasperware medallion by Wedgwood in 1787-88. The formation of Thomas Clarkson’s Committee for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787, “marked the transition of what had hitherto been the Quaker cause of abolition into a national, even an international movement. The emblem of the campaign–designed by the master potter Josiah Wedgwood, a committed supporter–was an inspired piece of propaganda, worthy of the Roman Church, or of a modern political party” (Thomas). The image had an immediate impact–women wore the medallions as necklaces or transformed them into bracelets, pins, or brooches to identify themselves with the abolitionist cause.

The image also appeared on the title-page of works written in support of the abolitionist cause. After Wilberforce’s Bill to abolish the slave trade finally passed in 1807, activists turned their attention to the abolition of slavery and the image of the of the enchained, crouching slave was adapted for a new use. Now the image came to symbolize slavery generally and in the framed plaque, the crouching slave implores Britannia, a personification of the British nation, to set him free. The ship in the background may be a slave ship, and if so would allude to the earlier triumph of the campaign to abolish the slave trade and hint that a similar result awaits the anti-slavery campaign.

In the sky between the motto “BRITANNIA SET ME FREE” and standing Britannia, is the ever-open-eye, which symbolises the omniscience of God. The symbol reminds the viewer that God knows of all the injustices perpetrated by man and subtly suggests that the viewer is complicit in the injustice if he or she doesn’t act against it. There are a number of different versions of this wall plaquette. In one the frame is alabaster rather than wood–see the example residing at the Hull Museum [accession number KINCM: 2006.3747]. In others the visual layout of the scene is slightly different i.e. in one the figure has a white loincloth and the motto is more circular. The wall plaques were produced up until parliament passed the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833.

See also: Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade, London, 2006, p.492.

When Size Matters: The Eidograph

A quick and (relatively) simple way to enlarge or reduce an engraving, map, or chart in the 19th century was to use a Pantograph. See:

But if you were a skilled, sophisticated graphic artist, you might prefer the more complex instrument known as the Eidograph, such as this one recently acquired by the Graphic Arts Collection.

Although a similar instrument can be traced to 1631 and the Jesuit astronomer Christoph Scheiner (1573-1650), we usually credit William Wallace (1768–1843) with the invention of the modern version in the 1820s. Princeton’s model was made by Joseph Casarelli’s Manchester firm, Casartelli & Sons, in the late 19th-century. Ours has a three foot beam calibrated 90-0-90 with vernier scale, locking screw, and cast pulleys connected to the center point by tension cables. Each connects by a similar vernier socket to their respective calibrated adjustable arms fitted with attachments for transposing lines onto paper.Pantograph Gif:

The Eidograph came housed in its original fitted mahogany box with its accessories and pasted instructions to the lid as well as a hand-written paper copy. The approximate measurements of the box are 36 x 5 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches (91 x 14 x 17 cm). According to a previous owner, this Eidograph was used in the Surveying Department of Eppleton Colliery, Hetton Le Hole in the Durham Coalfield. A similar example by Casartelli is in the Institution of Civil Engineers Museum Scotland.


As with many inventions, there are disagreements as to who the true inventor of the Eidograph really was and A.D.C. Simpson wrote the whole story in a wonderful article: “An Edinburgh Intrigue: Brewster’s Society of Arts and the Pantograph Dispute,” The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club 1 (1991): 47-73. DA 890.E2 B665 (Here’s a pdf: edinburgh intrigue). Well worth a read even if you will never own or use the instrument.

Eunice Burton Berger’s printing plates and illustrated music

When an author finishes a book or a poem, she sends the text off to a publisher. When a painter finishes an oil painting, it is hung in a gallery so buyers can see and hopefully, buy it. What happens to a composer who writes music for a marching band? How do you print the 35 parts and have them distributed to be copyrighted and played? The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a suitcase filled with the printing plates, proof sheets, and published music by Eunice Burton Berger (ca.1888-1966), a Dorchester, Massachusetts musician who did just that. Together with her husband, Louis H. Berger (1879-1965), an engineering and surveying instrument manufacturer, Berger wrote, printed, promoted, and sold her music to radio programs, military bands, and national music companies.

Note the initials, E.B.B. by the handle.

One of many examples of her self-promotion is a reply she received from Harvey S. Firestone Jr., Princeton University class of 1920 (1898-1973) and son of Harvey S. Firestone (1868-1938), in whose memory Princeton University’s Firestone Library is named. In addition to managing the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, both father and son sponsored The Voice of Firestone (originally called The Firestone Hour), a radio broadcast on NBC Radio beginning on December 3, 1928, featuring classical musicians and popular Broadway stars. The show later became the first series to be simulcast on both radio and television, and Harvey Jr. actively managed both the radio and television programs. [Broadcasts archived]It is unknown whether Berger’s music was ever included in one of the Firestone broadcasts.


Berger’s compositions include: “On the Brink,” “The Song of the Sea,” “The Spirit of Our Forefathers,” all copyrighted by her between 1939 and 1943, plus “Men of the Sea,” copyrighted in 1960. A few additional poems and partially completed musical scores are also found in her suitcase, along with correspondence between Berger and various members of the branches of the service thanking her for sending her scores. Copyright notices and certificates from the Library of Congress are present for each of her compositions along with paste-ups and proof at each stage of the printing process. There are contracts for royalties and research on the art to be included on the sheet music.

Engraved metal plates for “The Spirit of our Forefathers” come with instructions to the engraver as to what Berger wanted changed or improved. Although she shared credit with Charles E. George, bandmaster of the Irving Post of the American Legion in Roslindale, Massachusetts, on this and several other songs, it was Mr. and Mrs. Berger who produced sheet music and endlessly promoted the work.


The Spirit of Our Forefathers music by Charles E. George and lyrics by Eunice Burton Berger

The 35 marching band parts for “On the Brink,” copyright applied for October 31, 1939, include Berger’s notation additions and printed title laid down at the head of the page. There is a contract dated August 31, 1944, between Eunice Burton Berger and Broadcast Music wherein she gives them exclusive rights to perform “The Song of the Sea” for five years, and they agree to pay her royalties. Along with this are four small brass plaques commemorating relatives lost at sea, possibly the inspiration for several of her song.

The remainder of the material includes a family genealogy by Berger, a number of photographs, and love letters between the dedicated couple. Canadian-born Eunice Burton Berger was married twice, first to Charles Redmond in Canada, and then to Louis H. Berger, a partner in his father C.L. Berger’s firm in Boston, manufacturers of Engineering and Surveying Instruments. The couple lived in the Dorchester section of Boston.

Magic Lantern Actors and Actresses

Going on vacation. Can you identify the unknown actors and actresses while I’m gone? Thank you.
Julia Marlowe Taber as Lydia Languish

top left: Chauncey Ollott as Sir L. Trigger–Powers as Bob Acres. bottom left: Mr. J. Jefferson as Bob Acres. bottom right: Captain [ Jack] Absolute, The Rivals.


top left: unknown. bottom left: Helen Hayes, What Every Woman Knows. top right: John Baldwin Buckstone as Bob Acres 1802-1879. bottom right: unknown.

Eva Le Gallienne (1899-1991)

All unknown.

Bobbie Clark as Bob Acres?

All unknown.