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Eye of the Beholder: for a third glorious year

All right, I’ll ‘fess up. Our whole Eye of the Beholder exhibit thing? Was Arlene being lazy. In early September 2008, when I asked if we should do something for Archives Month in October, Mariecris suggested an exhibit. The problem was, and is, that exhibits are very time consuming and not a little expensive. Even for the quick and dirty way we usually do exhibits. We can spend 80-120 hours on selection of 40-60 images, scanning images, printing out images, writing captions, printing captions, mounting materials on boards, and so forth. And September is probably not the time to be thinking about creating a new full-blown exhibit for October.

And so what do we do? An exhibit was a great idea but not so much the time it would require of us. How do we get somebody else to do the work? And then for some reason, I thought about a specific photograph we have. A photograph of the Harris family: Richard, Kitty, their two boys, and Kitty’s sister in Juneau in 1889. Big sweeping vista of the growing town, family framed in front of their white house on a hill.  And I’d been thinking about this photograph for a while, because the original caption on it had always annoyed me. It was labeled Richard Tighe Harris’s family. But he wasn’t directly related to one of the people in the photograph: his wife’s sister. So shouldn’t it be Kitty Harris’s family?

Well, I don’t need to go on about the feminist perspective on that caption, but you probably see my point. And I’d been toying for a while with the idea that this photograph was well-suited to a variety of interpretations, depending on the cultural, academic, or whatever perspective of the viewer. And so an exhibit was born, with a relatively obvious title.  We sent out a call, made some direct and rather pointed calls, assigned a few archives employees to write interpretations, nagged a few faculty into it by promising them it would be good for their tenure files, and just nagged some other people until they did something. The results of that exhibit are available here.

So come late August 2009, and we decided why not do another one? We picked a couple of photographs, showed them around to staff of the library and when it was clear the votes for one were “yes” and the votes for the other were “huh?” we picked the first and sent out the call again. This time many of our contributors volunteered pieces all on their own. Side note: I haven’t yet posted the results of that exhibit, but if you’d like to see the photo and the call for participation on that one, it’s here. If I manage to get the whole exhibit online, I’ll be sure to update this entry.

Not so oddly, aside from the “this was fun!” the only piece of feedback we received in quantity was that we give people more time. Apparently the first month of the semester is not exactly the best time to ask people to meet deadlines for new creative work. Now, I tend to believe that the more time you give people, the more likely they are to forget that they promised to do something (or maybe that’s just me), but I try to be responsive and so here we go.

EOTB3 photo

EOTB3 photo

This year’s photograph. For details on how to submit an entry, or what you might consider doing for an entry, or if you’d like to read more about what we know about the photograph, or to look at a bigger version of it, that’s all available on our Call for Submissions.

Note that due date! We look forward to seeing what you have for us.

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