Collector’s binding (signed: Bradstreet), ca. 1913, formerly housing autograph letters between Walt Whitman and his mother (MA 918)
Thaw Conservation Center

Shen Wei (Chinese, act. United States, b. 1977)
House Frame, 2015
Digital chromogenic print
Gift of Jonathan Fanton; 2020.79
© Shen Wei, Photography courtesy of the artist.

Nina Katchadourian
Lake Michigan, 1996
Lake Michigan cut out of twenty-five progressively larger maps
Courtesy the Artist, Catharine Clark Gallery, and Pace Gallery
© Nina Katchadourian


When I went to visit the conservation center at the Morgan, I ended up looking at a lot of things like tools or remnants of the conservation process. And one of the most interesting of those was this book, which had correspondence between Walt Whitman and his mother pasted into the book. The letters had been taken out so that they could be conserved properly, but this leftover book with holes in it had been saved as well. What I like is trying to sort of fill in this blank, trying to imagine actually what had been in this book. There's something curious to me about the transparency that this book now has. You can see through the whole book at once. It's a little bit like the photograph of the house here by Shen Wei, where you can see a skeleton of something, and I love these pages that had giant holes missing from them, and it made me think a lot about excision, which is a process I've used a lot in map works of my own, where it's been about extracting something with an Exacto knife from its paper surroundings.