This year marked the 55th anniversary of the opening of MoMA’s photography exhibition The Family of Man, a show that was groundbreaking in its extent—503 images by 273 photographers originating in 69 countries—its physical design, and the numbers of people who experienced it.
Designed by architect Paul Rudolph, and featuring introductory text by poet Carl Sandburg, the exhibition opened on 53 Street in January 1955, and would be seen at 88 venues in 37 countries. Perhaps members of your family were among the 9 million who saw the exhibition at one of its locations, or some of the 2.5 million who had the accompanying catalog on their bookshelves at home.
Edward Steichen—photographer, painter, designer, and director of MoMA’s Department of Photography from 1947 to 1961—spent three years organizing the exhibition. During his tenure at MoMA, among the many other exhibitions he organized were Abstraction in Photography and Diogenes with a Camera.
Assembled in the Museum’s Department of Photography from 1968 to 1980, the Edward Steichen Archive contains a wealth of information about Steichen, The Family of Man, and many other exhibitions he organized. This rich resource, intended to aid study of Steichen’s life and creative output, includes original correspondence, photographs and sketches, still and moving images, tearsheets, and much more material still to be documented.
In September 2010, I began a one-year project rehousing and fully describing the Steichen Archive under the auspices of MoMA’s Museum Archives. When the project is completed next year, the collection will be fully accessible to researchers and scholars. Look for additional blog entries over the course of the year, as I discover more treasures from this fascinating archive.