The Myron Bement Smith collection consists of two parts, the papers of Myron Bement Smith and his wife Katharine and the Islamic Archives. It contains substantial material about his field research in Italy in the 1920s and his years working on Islamic architecture in Iran in the 1930s. Letters describe the milieu in which he operated in Rochester NY and New York City in the 1920s and early 1930s; the Smiths' life in Iran from 1933 to 1937; and the extensive network of academic and social contacts that Myron and Katharine developed and maintained over his lifetime. The Islamic Archives was a project to which Smith devoted most of his professional life. It includes both original materials, such as his photographs and notes, and items acquired by him from other scholars or experts on Islamic art and architecture. Smith intended the Archives to serve as a resource for scholars interested in the architecture and art of the entire Islamic world although he also included some materials about non-Islamic architecture.
Scope and Contents:
The Myron Bement Smith Collection consists of two parts, the papers of Myron Bement Smith and his wife Katharine and the Islamic Archives. The papers include some biographic material about Myron but little about his wife. Information on his academic and professional experience is sketchy and his diaries and appointment books often contain only sporadic entries. The papers contain substantial material about his field research in Italy in the 1920s and his years working on Islamic architecture in Iran in the 1930s. Correspondence comprises the largest and most potentially useful part of the papers. Letters describe the milieu in which he operated in Rochester, NY and New York City in the 1920s and early 1930s; the Smiths' life in Iran from 1933 to 1937; and the extensive network of academic and social contacts that Myron and Katharine developed and maintained over his lifetime.
The Islamic Archives, formally entitled The Archive for Islamic Culture and Art, was a project to which Smith devoted most of his professional life. It includes both original materials, such as his photographs and notes, and items acquired by him from other scholars or experts on Islamic art and architecture. Most of the latter consists of photographs and slides. Smith intended the Archives to serve as a resource for scholars interested in the architecture and art of the entire Islamic world although he also included some materials about non-Islamic architecture. The core collection of the Archives consists of Smith's original photographs and architectural sketches of Iranian Islamic monuments made during his field research in the 1930s. He meticulously photographed the interior and exterior of monuments, including their decorative detail. Some of the photographic materials subsequently loaned, purchased, or donated to the Archives may enable scholars to document sites over time but in many cases the materials are poorly preserved or reproduced. A notable exception to this is the glassplate negatives and prints of 19th century Iranian photographer Antoin Sevruguin.
The collection is arranged into 2 major series with further subseries. A third series inventories the outsized and miscellaneous materials.
Series 1: Papers
Subseries 1.1: Biographic Materials
Subseries 1.2: Professional Experience
Subseries 1.3: Notebooks, Journals and Appointment Books
Subseries 1.4: Correspondence
Subseries 1.5: Published and Unpublished Materials
Subseries 1.6: Italy Research 1925, 1927-1928
Subseries 1.7: Iran Research 1933-1937
Subseries 1.8: Katharine Dennis Smith Papers and Correspondence
Series 2: The Islamic Archives
Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information
Subseries 2.2: Resource Materials Iran
Subseries 2.3: Resource Materials Other Islamic World and General
Subseries 2.4: Myron Bement Smith Architectural Sketches, Plans and Notes, Iran, 1933-1937
Subseries 2.5: Myron Bement Smith Iran Photographs, Notebooks and Negative Registers
Subseries 2.6: Country Photograph File
Subseries 2.7: Lantern Slide Collection
Subseries 2.8: Myron Bement Smith 35 mm Color Slides
Subseries 2.9: Country 35 mm Color Slide File
Subseries 2.10: Myron Bement Smith Negatives
Subseries 2.11: Country Photograph Negatives
Subseries 2.12: Antoin Sevruguin Photographs
Series 3: Outsize and Miscellaneous Items
Subseries 3.1: Map Case Drawers
Subseries 3.2: Rolled Items
Subseries 3.3 Items in Freezer
Subseries 3.4 Smithsonian Copy Negatives
Myron Bement Smith was born in Newark Valley, New York in 1897 and grew up in Rochester, New York. He died in Washington D.C. in 1970. He showed an early interest in drawing, and after graduation from high school, he worked as a draftsman for a Rochester architect. He served in the US Army Medical Corps in France during World War I and on return again worked as an architectural draftsman. He studied at Yale University from 1922 to 1926, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. During summer vacations, he worked as draftsman or designer for architectural firms in New York City. After graduation, he received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation grant and spent two years in Italy doing research on northern Italian brick and stone work. He used photography as an tool for his research and published several well-illustrated articles. On return he joined an architectural firm in Philadelphia and in 1931 became a registered architect in New York. He enrolled in Harvard University graduate school in 1929 pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree.
In April 1930, Smith was appointed Secretary of the newly created American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology founded by Arthur Upham Pope and located in New York City. He had no prior academic or work experience in Islamic art or architecture, and his job entailed designing publications, arranging lectures, organizing exhibitions and fund raising. That summer he arranged an independent study course at Harvard University on Persian art and subsequently studied Persian language at Columbia University and attended graduate courses at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. His work and academic credentials enabled him to compete successfully for a research fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies in 1933 to study Iranian Islamic architecture.
Accompanied by his new bride Katharine Dennis, Smith left for Iran in 1933. They suffered a horrendous motor vehicle accident in Iraq en route and required a lengthy recuperation in Lebanon and Cyprus. The Smiths eventually arrived in Isfahan, Iran, where they established their "Expedition House," as Smith called it, in a rented faculty house at Stuart College. Smith's research consisted of meticulous photographic documentation of Islamic monuments and architectural sketches and drawings of many of them. He concentrated on the Isfahan area but also documented monuments elsewhere in Iran. Smith outfitted his station wagon as a combination camper and research vehicle in which he and his staff traveled widely. Katharine sometimes traveled with him but generally she remained in Isfahan managing the household and logistics for the "expedition." The Smiths left Iran in 1937.
Smith published several articles about Iran's Islamic monuments based on his field research and in 1947 completed his PhD thesis for The Johns Hopkins University on the vault in Persian architecture. His professional career from 1938 until his death in 1970 consisted of a series of temporary academic positions, contract work and government or academic sponsored lecture tours and photographic exhibits. He had a long lasting relationship with the Library of Congress where he served as an Honorary Consultant from 1938 to 1940 and again from 1948 to 1970; from 1943 to 1944 he was Chief of the Iranian Section at the Library. Despite his lack of published material, Smith was well-known among academic, government and private citizens who worked, traveled or were otherwise interested Iran and the Islamic world.
Smith developed an extensive network of professional and social contacts that dated from his early student days and increased markedly during his time at the Persian Institute and later in Iran. He kept in touch with them and they touted him to others who were interested in Iran or Islamic art and architecture. This network served him well in realizing his ambition of creating a resource for scholars that relied on photographs to document Islamic architecture. The Islamic Archives began with his own collection of photographs from his Iran research and grew to include all manner of photographic and other materials not only on the Islamic world but also other areas. Creating and managing the Archives became the main focus of Smith's professional life and career. In 1967 he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to revise his PhD thesis as a publishable manuscript but died before he could complete it.
The Antoin Sevruguin Photgraphs
Ernst Herzfeld Papers
Lionel B. Bier Drawings
Lionel D. Bier and Carol Bier Photographs
Gift of Myron Bement Smith
Collection is open for research.
Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository.
The collection consists of 6,567 color slides taken by Dr. Marilyn Houlberg during various field studies among the Yoruba in southwest Nigeria between 1961 and circa 2005. The images depict Yoruba art and culture with a special focus on artisans, art objects, body arts, costume, festivals, hairstyles, indigenous photography, weaving and textiles. Cultural events depicted include Balufon festivals, Egungun and Gelede masquerades, social events (weddings, christenings, funerals), and religious ceremonies (initiation and animal sacrifice). Also included are various scenes of daily life, architecture, food preparation, markets, portraits and landscapes. Houlberg extensively documented Yoruba artists in the process of creating their art, including carvers Yesufu Ejigboye, Runshewe, and Lamidi Fakeye, as well as the final pieces themselves. Houlberg documentated art in situ, such as Yoruba house posts, shrines, wall art and wood doors and art objects, including Gelede masks, Ibeji (twin) and Eshu figures, Osanyin staffs, and Ogboni and Shango shrines. Manuscript and printed materials, including Houlberg's resume, thesis, and numerous published articles are also available in this collection.
Scope and Contents note:
This 6,567 slide collection documents Houlberg's studies in Southwestern Nigeria spanning from 1961 to circa 2005. The collection primarily includes photos of people, including the Ogboni, Pokot, Yoruba, Turkana and Igbo, shrines, festivals and rituals, art objects, and artists. A particular strength of the collection are photos of Balufon festivals, Egungun and Gelede masquerades, social events (weddings, christenings, funerals), and religious ceremonies (initiation and animal sacrifice). Also included are various scenes of daily life, architecture, food preparation, markets, portraits and landscapes. Houlberg mostly photographed in Ilishan, Ikenne, Ilara, Shagamu, Lagos, Ijebu-Ode, and Egbe.
Houlberg extensively documented Yoruba artists in the process of creating their art, including carvers Yesufu Ejigboye, Runshewe, and Lamidi Fakeye, as well as the final pieces themselves. Houlberg documentated art in situ, such as Yoruba house posts, shrines, wall art, wood doors and art objects, including Gelede masks, Ibeji (twin) and Eshu figures, Osanyin staffs, and Ogboni and Shango shrines. Several Yoruba art forms, including photography, scarification tattoos, and textiles (both cloth and dress), are represented in the collection. Additionally, there are numerous slides of Yoruba hairstyles, many of which she published in her article, Social Hair: Tradition and Change in Yoruba Hairstyles in Southwestern Nigeria.
Yoruba ritual specialists, such as Ife-olu Solaru, Olufunke, and Yesufu Ejigboye, appear frequently throughout the collection. Houlberg documented her many stays with these individuals over the years.
There is also one binder of manuscript and printed materials, including Houlberg's resume, thesis, and numerous published articles.
The collection is organized into 29 series according to subject. The series descriptions correspond with particular subjects used in Houlberg's teaching and lectures. All slides were kept in the order in which they were donated.
Series 1: African Hairstyles, circa 1973-1994 (Binder 1; 212 slides)
Series 2: Egungun Festival, 1961-circa 1988 (Binder 1; 362 slides)
Series 3: Gelede, circa 1969-circa 1989 (Binder 2; 301 slides)
Series 4: Ibeji Twins, circa 1969-circa 1990 (Binders 2-3; 854 slides)
Series 5: Ogboni Art Objects and Shrines, circa 1969-circa 1982 (Binder 4; 92 slides)
Series 6: Art Objects Depicting Ogun, circa 1969-circa 1983 (Binder 4; 56 slides)
Series 7: Olojufoforo Art and Festivities, circa 1968-circa 1975 (Binder 4; 21 slides)
Series 8: Yoruba People, Architecture, and Art, circa 1969-circa 1985 (Binder 4; 260 slides)
Series 9: Carving, Art Objects and Artists, and Scenes of Daily Life, circa 1973-circa 1988 (Binder 4; 201 slides)
Series 10: Yoruba Art, circa 1971-circa 1983 (Binder 5; 49 slides)
Series 11: Yoruba Textiles, circa 1973-circa 1983 (Binder 5; 84 slides)
Series 12: Yoruba, Miscellaneous, circa 1967-circa 1989 (Binder 5; 251 slides)
Series 13: African Art, Textiles People, and Dwellings, circa 1963-circa 1983 (Binder 6; 58 slides)
Series 14: Ibo Mbari and Igbo Peoples and Artwork, circa 1967-circa 1985 (Binder 6; 212 slides)
Series 15: Art and Ceremonies, circa 1967-circa 1991 (Binder 6; 493 slides)
Series 16: Body Arts, Nuba People (Sudan) and Fulani and Bororo People (Niger), circa 1973-circa 1979 (Binder 7; 64 slides)
Series 17: People, Scenic Views and Animals of Kenya, Sudan, Angola, and Ghana, circa 1972-circa 1985 (Binder 7; 168 slides)
Series 18: Peoples and Arts of Ghana, Mali, and the Ivory Coast, circa 1966-circa 1992 (Binder 7; 406 slides)
Series 19: Published Maps and Photos, circa 1968-circa 1985 (Binder 8; 70 slides)
Series 20: Nigerian Masks and Art Objects, circa 1967-circa 1978 (Binder 8; 396 slides)
Series 21: Yoruba Festivals, People, and Art in Nigeria, circa 1967-circa 1988 (Binders 8-9; 128 slides)
Series 22: Yoruba Photography and Textiles, circa 1975-circa 1983 (Binder 9; 54 slides)
Series 23: Ife-Olu, Ilishan, circa 1980-circa 1988 (Binder 9; 87 slides)
Series 24: Yoruba Festivals, People, Hairstyles, Ibeji Objects, Eshu Figures, and Oya and Orishala Priests, Priestesses, and Shrines, circa 1966-circa 1988 (Binder 9; 168 slides)
Series 25: Shango, circa 1970-circa 1983 (Binder 10, 162 slides)
Series 26: Ara Festival, 1975 (Binder 10; 174 slides)
Series 27: Ceremonies and Festivals, Portraits, Art and Ceremonial Objects, Domestic and Market Scenes, circa 1969-circa 2005 (Binders 10-11; 759 slides)
Series 28: Yoruba Art Objects, and Domestic, Work, and Festival Scenes, circa 1971-circa 1983 (Binder 11; 104 slides)
Series 29: Manuscript and Printed Materials, 1973-circa 2005 (Binder 12)
Artist, anthropologist, and art historian Dr. Marilyn Hammersley Houlberg was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1939. Houlberg received an Associate of Arts degree from Wright Junior College (1959) and a BFA from the University of Chicago (1963). After graduating, she traveled to North Africa and explored Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. In 1964, Houlberg researched Haitian art, religion, and indigenous photography in Haiti and in 1965 was awarded a scholarship for graduate study from the University of Chicago. There she completed her MAT in Art History in 1967. Following graduation, Houlberg worked at the Nigerian Museum in Lagos, where she documented Yoruba sculpture, masquerades, religion, body art, and indigenous photography.
She began her teaching career at the University of Chicago as a lecturer on African art and African civilization, working there from 1971 to 1973. At the University of London, Houlberg earned a Masters in Anthropology, producing the thesis Yoruba Twin Sculpture and Ritual (1973). She also extensively photographed her travels abroad in Yorubaland. Between 1974 and 1990, Houlberg taught at the University of Chicago, Columbia College, Kalamazoo College, and Northwestern University. From 1974 to 2008 she continued teaching at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, lecturing on Yoruba art and ritual in West Africa and the New World, and the art and ritual of Vodou in Haiti.
Houlberg has lectured worldwide at numerous museums and symposiums since 1972, including in Lagos, Nigeria; Jacmel, Haiti; Toronto, Canada; Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; and Cologne, Germany. Her essays have been published in several issues of African Arts. Some of Houlberg's significant publications include Arts of the Water Spirits of Haitian Vodou, in Sacred Waters: Arts for Mami Wata and Other Divinities in Africa and the Diaspora (2008) and Water Spirits of Haitian Vodou: Lasiren, Queen of Mermaids, in Mami-Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and the African-Atlantic World (2008). The exhibition Mami-Wata at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (2009) featured her photographs.
Marilyn Houlberg, 733 West 18th St., Chicago, IL 60616, Donation, 20050320, 2005-0002
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