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A Millennium of Music at the Morgan, Part I

What do you expect to see when you come to the Morgan? Rare books and master drawings? Cherished names like Austen, Tolkein, and Babar? Modern art, or contemporary photography? How about music?

It turns out that the first half of that list is more likely than the second. A recent survey showed that relatively few visitors think of the Morgan as a place for modern art or photography, despite our deep collections in those domains. And less than a quarter expect to see a music exhibition when they visit the Morgan.

Peter Hujar's Rough Drafts

In 2013 The Morgan acquired one hundred photographs by Peter Hujar and, along with them, a vast collection of material including correspondence, job books, and contact sheets. The contact sheets were made between 1955, when Hujar was in his early twenties, and 1986, shortly before he died of AIDS-related pneumonia, and they demonstrate the range of Hujar’s practice.

Shiva Ahmadi's Tower

My attraction to Shiva Ahmadi’s Tower (2017) was immediate, but it is a challenging work in both its content and execution. In discussing it, I find it helpful to speak in terms of dualities: seduction and repulsion, translucency and opacity, chaos and control, background and foreground. Ahmadi has done this herself in quotations like the one above.

Architecture and Access: A History of the Morgan's Print Room

A print room—a space to house a collection of drawings and prints, the curators who are responsible for it, and the scholars that come to study the collection—has been an essential feature at the Morgan since 1906 when J. Pierpont Morgan closely collaborated with Charles Follen McKim on the interiors of the library housing his collections.

Enough with the Anemones: A Letter by Amy Benecke

Every summer since 2015, a paid undergraduate intern from the University of Pennsylvania’s RealArts@Penn program program has joined the Literary and Historical Manuscripts Department staff at the Morgan. Two summers ago, Delaney Keenan (who graduated this June with a B.A. in Art History from Penn) spent part of her internship working on a project to survey and study the department’s holdings of the letters of women artists.

Welcome Home Brother

Without knowing its underlying historical context, a viewer is likely to find this print from the Morgan’s collection bafflingly obscure. Once you learn it was published in London during the dark days of the Great Plague of 1665–1666, however, the meaning and significance of “Welcome Home Brother” begins to come into focus and strike an uncomfortably contemporary note.

Rick Barton: A Curatorial Serial, Part IV–Conclusion

In early 2018, I received the welcome news that UCLA Library Special Collections would consider lending drawings by Rick Barton to an exhibition at the Morgan. Moreover, more than 600 drawings that had not been located at the time of my visit were now available to view. My next opportunity to travel to Los Angeles would not arrive until October of that year. But in the interim, I made a number of crucial discoveries.

Color and Curious Creatures: Fifteenth-Century Block Books at the Morgan

The Morgan owns the largest collection of block books in North America and they were some of J. Pierpont Morgan’s earliest acquisitions. These are books in which both the images and the text are carved from a single woodblock, hence the term block book.

Hol(e)y Moly!: Historical Damage and Repairs in Medieval Manuscripts

When looking at a medieval manuscript, it is often the illuminations that catch the eye—colorful figures rendered in miniature, gleaming gold backgrounds, ornate initials that twirl and bloom across the margins. But beyond the illuminations, and even beyond the text, the substrate itself merits closer inspection.

The Indomitable Felice Stampfle, the Morgan's First Curator of Drawings and Prints

Pierpont Morgan’s librarian, Belle da Costa Greene (1883–1950), shepherded the banker’s collections beginning in 1905 and continued doing so for many years after his death in 1913, working alongside his son and eventually serving as the museum’s first director from 1928 until her retirement in 1949. After the Morgan opened its doors as a public institution, the drawings collection—established by Morgan in 1909—continued to grow through gifts from the Morgan family and from a small number of patrons, as well as through select purchases.