Collecting, Curating, and Consuming American Popular Graphic Arts Yesterday and Today

Keynote Address: Makeda Best, Harvard Art Museums

Makeda Best, Harvard Art Museums

Makeda Best is the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography at the Harvard Art Museums. She studied studio photography at the California Institute of the Arts, where she earned an MFA, and she has a Ph.D. from Harvard in the history of art and architecture. Her scholarly interests focus on 19th- and 20th-century American photography, with a special interest in photojournalism, documentary, war photography, and text and image works. She has written essays and articles on photography and incarceration, and on class and labor in 19th-century American photography. Her most recent book is Elevate the Masses: Alexander Gardner, Photography, and Democracy in 19th century America (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2020) and her current book project centers on landscape photography. Best has also curated several exhibitions, including Devour the Land: War and American Landscape Photography since 1970 (2021-2022) and Winslow Homer: Eyewitness (2019), as well as in fall 2021 led, ReFrame, a museum-wide initiative to reimagine the function and future of the university art museum.

Troubling Images: Revisiting the Historical Role of the Photographic Archive as a Tool for Teaching

Through a close reading of works in the photography collection of the Harvard Art Museums, this talk examines historical representations of African American agricultural labor. Acquired during the late 19th and early 20th centuries for use in teaching and research, today the works invite new perspectives to confront their narratives and contexts, to examine their paths and uses within the institutional setting, and to address their legacies.