New Digital Collection – Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion study

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives, and Barbara Katus, Manager of Imaging Services

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) was an English photographer who is considered the father of motion picture because of his photographic studies of animal motion. His pivotal work in the development and evolution of motion picture began in 1872. Muybridge was hired by Leland Stanford, the California governor and founder of Stanford University, to settle a debate regarding whether a horse had all its hooves off the ground simultaneously or not. For six years, Muybridge used photography to figure out the answer to the question. All his work led to success in 1878 when he setup 12 cameras along a racetrack to photograph a galloping horse. The photographs proved that there is a point when no hooves touch the ground during the horse’s stride.

Muybridge’s connection to PAFA began when PAFA’s board member Fairman Rogers and art faculty member Thomas Eakins corresponded with Muybridge about his Stanford photograph project. In 1883, Rogers invited Muybridge to give a lecture at the Academy. On February 12, 1883, Muybridge lectured on The Romance and Realities of Animal Locomotion, illustrated by the Zoopraxiscope at PAFA. Muybridge eventually relocated to Philadelphia and continued his work on his landmark study on animal locomotion.

Under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, Muybridge eventually published 12 volumes that illustrated animal locomotion in 781 plates. Fairman Rogers who was an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of the School of Veterinary Medicine, professor of civil engineering acquired a set of Muybridge’s 12 volumes. In 1887, Rogers donated the volumes to PAFA’s library.


128 years after Rogers’ donation, the volumes required much needed conservation to be usable again. PAFA was fortunate enough to receive grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support the conservation of all 12 volumes. After conservation, the volumes were all digitized in-house. The volumes are now freely accessible online.

To view all 12 volumes, please visit PAFA’s Digital Archives here.

Happy Holidays!

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

On behalf of the Museum Team, we wish everyone a very happy holiday season! This past week, PAFA staff and faculty came together for our annual holiday party celebrating over food, music, and prizes!


Three members of the museum team (Mark Knobelsdorf, Barbara Katus, and myself) were among the raffle prize winners!

Barbara Katus and I designed and constructed a PAFA gingerbread house. It includes flying buttresses, mosaic tile entry, and custom icing roof.

We want to thank everyone for their continued support. Happy Holidays!

The “Genius” Alumna

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

PAFA Alumna Njideka Akunyili Crosby was announced as one of the winners of the prestigious 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, otherwise known as the “Genius Grant.” In honor of the award, PAFA has hung her monumental two panel work, I Always Face You, Even When it Seems Otherwise. Now on View in the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building at PAFA.



It took extra hands to hang such a large work. Our Team consisted of Liz McDermott, Michael Gibbons, Mark Knobelsdorf, and myself.

The MacArthur fellowships are awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to extraordinarily creative people who inspire the masses.

Critical Observation // Art Appreciation

Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

PAFA’s collection of prints, drawings, miniatures, photographs, sketchbooks, and illustrated books contains over 13,000 American works on paper, dating from the 18th century to the present day. Works of art on paper are by nature delicate objects that can be irreparably damaged from cumulative exposure to light. As a result, PAFA can only display these works for short periods of time, and then only in low levels of light to guarantee their preservation for future generations.

PAFA’s new Center for the Study of the American Artist provides a dedicated study room to act as a classroom for teaching with works of art on paper in PAFA’s permanent collection, a practice that has been fundamental to PAFA since its inception as America’s first fine art school and museum.

The seminar style room provides a setting to encourage art criticism, discussion, and contemplation.

On some occasions, there are a series of framed works that require viewing in their storage location!


The Center is open to qualified individuals, groups, and classes.

Visits are generally held Monday – Friday during the hours of 10am-4pm, dependent on the availability of staff. We recommend that visitors begin an initial search of PAFA’s collection of works on paper here. For more information, please visit the Study Center

IMLS Project Update: PAFA’s New Digital Archive

Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ (PAFA) Dorothy & Kenneth Woodcock Archives is excited to announce the public beta launch of its new online Digital Archives. With the generous support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Archives was able to develop a comprehensive plan to digitize and disseminate some of the Archives’ most significant holdings. For the one year pilot project, the Archives selected a high value/high risk collection—the Annual Exhibition Photograph collection—to test and develop proper workflows, guidelines, and best practices.

To increase the searchability and discoverability of digital resources, images were cataloged using widely adopted metadata standards. To ensure we reproduced high quality digital surrogates, we developed a digitization workflow that adhered to national standards and guidelines. The results from the pilot project will help guide future digitization projects.

As the IMLS Grant Project comes to a close, we are happy to announce that we have exceeded the initial goal of the pilot project. This past year, we were able to develop internal guidelines for digitization and cataloging, rehouse 100% of the photograph collection, digitize, catalog and provide free online access to over 3,600 images, and even develop a new online database.

The project is also significant as it provides us the ability to better serve our patrons. We are aware of the changing trends in research methodologies and how scholars have come to expect online access to primary sources. We will use the momentum created by the success of the pilot project to continue developing digitization projects. Please continue to visit the Digital Archives for newly digitized items and collections.

IMLS Project Update: That’s a wrap!

Contributed by: Tess Amram, IMLS Project Archivist

I want to wrap up by extending my thanks to IMLS for the grant that made this project possible. Overall, I’m incredibly proud of the work I did here at PAFA, and there are so many images that I can’t wait to send to people to discuss, once everything is up and running online. (That old adage that ‘everyone has a twin’ is more true than I thought – I’ve lost count of how many double takes I’ve done, thinking the subject of a painting from over a hundred years ago was actually a friend of mine now. Also, there are so many adorable dogs the world deserves to see.)

Even aside from all the technical (that is, marketable) skills I’ve learned, working with these materials has been an object lesson in how small the world can be – for example, the first time I saw the painting “Three Friends,” by Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, was not in installation photographs from the 1912 Annual Exhibition, but hanging in the main library of my alma mater six years ago, dourly watching over thousands of undergrads going about their academic lives. It’s little things like that that were, for me, the most exciting part – those moments of connection between Back Then, and Now.


“Three Friends,” by Joseph Rodefer DeCamp

Welcome Back Students!

The Center for the Study of the American Artist would like to welcome all new students to PAFA and welcome back all returning students. Whether you are just starting or finishing up, be sure to take advantage of the Center’s services in the year ahead. Much like the amazing PAFA Faculty, the Museum staff are also here to help you grow as artists- whether you want to view a specific piece of art, need research assistance, talk about art, or even learn more about museum career possibilities.

As always, do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our services. We wish you a very successful year ahead.

IMLS Project Update: Lessons Learned (Cataloging and Metadata)

Contributed by: Tess Amram, IMLS Project Archivist

The cataloging and metadata assignation portion of this project was the facet most relevant to my immediate career goals – I’m aiming for a career in cataloging, and I applied for this job in large part because it would expose me to cataloging standards I hadn’t yet had a chance to work with (i.e. standards for materials other than books). I hadn’t had much cause to use the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus before now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to expose myself to controlled vocabulary outside of the Library of Congress Subject Headings (although I wish I had dived into Getty a bit earlier in the process – it would have saved me a lot of nitpicking at the end!).

One of the downsides of cataloging when you love it, I’ve found, is that it’s often difficult to know when to stop. There are a handful of photographs that I was unable to identify, both of gallery installations and of individual works, and it was very, very easy to slip into a Detective Mode Spiral and devote altogether more time than was wise trying to figure it out. Given the fact that most of the artwork depicted in the photographs is of ‘lost art’, it’s entirely possible that I wouldn’t have been able to identify a particular piece no matter what, but for a completionist like me, admitting defeat is quite frustrating.

IMLS Project Update: Lessons Learned (Digitization)

Contributed by: Tess Amram, IMLS Project Archivist

So many lessons learned from this project about digitization! I came into it a complete novice to the practice, and over 3500 images later, I think I’ve got a handle on the basics, at least. I’d only ever used a scanner for text-based documents and the occasional photograph, but I’d never had to scan to archival standards before, so the training I got at the beginning of the project was vital. Understanding the choice of color profiles and dpi to scan with, and Hoang’s explanations of debates among archivists on the topic, definitely helped me get a grasp on what the end result should look like, and what it would be used for.

If I could go back and start it all over again, I would definitely, definitely make sure the scanner was as calibrated as it could be before I got started. The main issue I ran into while digitizing was that of color – although the bulk of the images are black and white, the photographs are very old and most have gone yellow or red with age, whereas the scanner was producing images with a distinct green tinge. This was relatively easy to correct, by adjusting histograms before scanning, or doing a bit of a touch-up in Photoshop afterwards if necessary, but color correction took up a lot of valuable scanning time.

Annual Archivist Conference: ALIKE/DIFFERENT

Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) Annual Conference in Portland, OR this year. The conference provided valuable professional development and networking opportunities that all archivists should take advantage of (if you have the opportunity).

Events such as the Teaching With Primary Sources: “Unconference” was particularly interesting. The all-day event generously hosted by the Portland Art Museum had the theme of “Aligning with Allies.” It was an informative and fun day, featuring a variety of workshops in the morning and an afternoon full of attendee-driven conversations (over 100 professionals attended!) covering all aspects of teaching with primary sources. I definitely learned a lot and I hope to implement some fresh ideas and new knowledge to benefit PAFA’s archives program.

I also had the chance to network with fellow (museum) archivists who shared new ideas and discussed their ongoing projects. One symposium included presentations by MoMa (digital portal for all exhibitions), Detroit Institute of Arts Museum (relocating their archives and restablishing a proper archival program), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (archiving email), and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum (digital oral histories).