Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The case for a Teenie Harris Museum: A forum for urban history

Well, the Teenie Harris show, I gave a tepid review for, (wishing for a larger selection of full scale prints) really grew in my heart and soul. I went back three times and now wish I had gone more often.

The good news is it will tour. It also, became a pretty huge hit in town and garnered a lot of national and international press.

A reduced version of the exhibition will travel to the Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago (February 4–June 4 2012); the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (August 7–October 28, 2012); and the Robert Woodruff Library at the Atlanta University Center (January 20–April 13, 2013).

The bad news is that the show will be edited down and isn't scheduled for high profile venues like The Smithsonian, ICP or any major museum.

The online archive continues to grow and be enriched with more personal stories and info.

More than one writer grasped the historic importance of this huge collection of pictures documenting a community.

The Big Legacy Of Charles 'Teenie' Harris, Photographer

The black and white images captured by Charles 'Teenie' Harris that re-tell the musical history of black America in the 20th Century

I think the Harris archive is almost without equal as an extensive, in depth portrait of American life. His 50,000 photos are not made up of many pictures of the same moments, but capture almost 50,000 separate, distinct people, places and events.

Harris didn't just record crime scenes or fashionably dressed people or jazz performances or sports or staged portraits or interesting buildings or pictures meant to advocate a political or social agenda. From his work we get a full idea of a lost time and place. As full an idea as one person could ever provide.

Of course, the time and place is one of endless interest. What happened to the thriving, beautiful, dynamic community he captured? Sadly, no similar record exists of The Grand Concourse, Newark's Central Ward or even of Harlem itself in it's glory days.

So many questions and so many possible points of discussion. In my opinion, Pittsburgh really needs a stand alone museum of Harris's work. My hope is it would become a center for not just African American, but all urban history.

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