Halloween Advice from the Desk of Dr. Burns

Don't Forget the Details
Get Your Hair Done
Text Your Friends and Tell Them What You're Doing
Dress Appropriately
Put on Some Makeup
Make Some Plans
Don't Plan Anything too Dangerous
Bring Your Friends
Go to a Party
Don't do Anything Illegal
Wear the Best Costume


Burns Archive Exhibition Reviewed in The New Yorker

Goings On About Town: Art

Reed Bontecou

Bontecou, the head surgeon at a Washington, D.C., Army hospital during the Civil War, photographed wounded soldiers to document their injuries and treatment. His sepia-toned albumen prints were mounted in the elegant oval formats typical of the period’s popular carte-de-visite portraits, and his subjects do their best to strike a formal pose while half dressed and badly hurt. In the nearly fifty small examples here, grave young men display amputated limbs, bullet wounds, missing fingers, and disfigured faces. But Bontecou’s sympathy turns what could be mere medical curiosities into true portraits—complicated, touching, and unsettling. Through Nov. 12.

Through November 12
24 W. 57th St., New York, NY


New York State Museum Exhibits Historic African American Photos from The Burns Archive

Shadow and Substance: African American Images from the Burns Archive

Saturday, October 15, 2011 - Saturday, March 31, 2012

New York State Museum Photography Gallery
Cultural Education Center, Madison Avenue, Albany, NY
Monday - Saturday, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Closed Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
The NYS Museum is free. Donations are accepted at the door.

A selection from the over 100 images on view:

White woman and enslaved girl, Washburn & Company, New Orleans, Louisiana, c. 1849,  daguerreotype. 
Woman wearing a cloak, Washburn & Company, New Orleans, Louisiana, c. 1855, ambrotype. This somberly dressed woman was probably one of the thousands of free people of color who lived in Louisiana. 
Charles Harris, co A 31 US COL Troops, c. 1865.  Civil War soldier wounded at The Battle of the Crater. Photograph by R.B. Bontecou, MD.
Man with cane, c. 1860s, cabinet card.  This man chose to have himself photographed as a stylish gentleman, from his top hat to his elegant suit and shined shoes.  The dog could belong to him or the photographer.
Man in fraternal regalia, c. 1900, cabinet card.  Black men and women supported scores of clubs and fraternal organizations.  These groups provided entertainment and camaraderie and formed a nationwide network.
Major Taylor, c. 1900.  Marshall “Major” Taylor born in 1878 was the dominant cyclist of his time and world champion.
Four soldiers, World War I, c. 1917.  Many blacks endured unequal treatment within the military. However, many soldiers who served overseas also encountered for the first time a world that was not marked by Jim Crow segregation. © The Burns Archive.
Baptism in a river, Hampton Roads, Virginia, c. 1930.  An evangelical minister follows the example of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan by baptizing his followers in a local river.
Woman sitting on car bumper, c. 1931. This stylish woman balances on a car bumper.  Countless snapshots show people sitting on, in, or near cars, an indication of how important these vehicles are to us. © The Burns Archive.
Marian Anderson at the Mall, Washington D.C., April 9, 1939.  When the Daughters of the Revolution refused to rent its concert hall to any nonwhite singer, Marian Anderson, with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, performed before the Lincoln Memorial.
ALBANY, NY.- Shadow and Substance: African American Images from The Burns Archive -- opened at the New York State Museum October 15, showcasing rarely-seen photographs from one of the largest private photography collections in the world.

Open through March 31, 2012 in the Photography Gallery, the exhibition allows the viewer to perceive how African-Americans were seen by others and how they wished to be seen. These images do not tell a complete story of the past, but their eloquent shadows provide unique glimpses into the lives of African-Americans over the past 160 years.

The 113 images in Shadow and Substance include portraits, snapshots and photographs of celebration, tragedy and quiet joy, work and family, strength and perseverance. From early images of slaves and Civil War soldiers to new voters and political activists, the exhibition is filled with illustrations of achievement and shocking evidence of intolerance. Some images may not be suitable for young children.

The images were culled from the comprehensive Burns Archive of Historic Vintage Photographs that include specializations in medical and health care, death and dying, sports and recreation, in addition to images of African-Americans. The collection was amassed by Dr. Stanley B. Burns, an ophthalmologist, collector and curator in New York City who was the founding donor for several photography collections, including those of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Burns has authored several books including “A Morning’s Work: Medical Photographs from the Burns Archive & Collection, 1843-1939”; “Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America” and “Forgotten Marriage: The Painted Tintype and Decorative Frame, 1860-1910.”

The traveling exhibition is organized by the Indiana State Museum and curated by Dr. Modupe Labode, assistant professor of history and public scholar of African-American History and Museum Studies at Indiana University.


RECEPTION TONIGHT: Masterpieces of Civil War Portraiture at The Robert Anderson Gallery

Thomas Yourall, Private Company C, 3rd US Artillery

Reception Oct 6, 6-8pm. 

Robert Anderson Gallery Presents: 
Reed Bontecou: Masterpieces of Civil War Portraiture from the Burns Collection.

Robert Anderson Gallery
24 West 57th Street, Suite 503
New York, NY, 10019

On View Through Nov 12, 2011  
Hours: 11am -6pm, Tues - Saturday 


Coffin Plates

Coffin plates were popularly used in the 19th and early 20th centuries, though usage dates back to the 17th century. The plates above range from the 1872-1915. They were typically made from metals ranging from silver to tin based on the economic means of the deceased's family. The plates would be attached to coffin with nails or propped near the body in a casket. Family members would often remove the plate after the funeral and keep it as a memento of the departed. As the funeral industry grew at the turn-of-the-century, memorial decor became more extravagant. Elaborate jewel box caskets with silk linings, special flower arrangements, memorial cards and coffin plates became standards. The postmortem photograph in this post illustrates the height of funeral decor. The coffin plate was propped near the body as an ornamental emblem.

The image below is of child in his carriage, with coffin plate attached to the velvet lining of the ambrotype case (circa 1856). If a family already had a favorite photograph of a child in their possession, they would often prepare their own memorial instead of going through the expense and trouble of having a postmortem image taken. They would attach, poems, locks of hair, pieces of clothing, or other mementos of the child’s life. Often they included mementos of the child’s death. A favorite souvenir of the funeral was the coffin plate, which was removed so the family could have a tangible piece of their loved ones burial chamber. Here the tiny coffin plate “Our Darling” that was fixed to this child’s coffin was attached on the mat. Considering that purple was a mourning color its possible the image was transferred to a case with a purple mat when the child died.