Monday, August 13, 2007

The Dark Side of Currier & Ives

A key piece of this project is education and the last couple of weeks have been devoted largely to producing a short video for a Teacher's Workshop at the end of August! The "Currier & Ives Teacher Workshop" is for public schoolteachers in Springfield, Massachusetts. It gives teachers a chance to use the unique collection of Currier & Ives prints at the Springfield Museums as a window into 19th century American life.
How can teachers include these popular lithographs as a primary visual resource into their lesson plans? How can they teach students to "read" a print to discern crucial information? What can children learn by noticing what's not included in the works? These are some of the questions the Springfield Museums, WGBY and area colleges will explore in the 2-day workshop.
Teachers will also hear from some of the experts interviewed for our PBS documentary series about Currier & Ives. Interestingly, a frank discussion about the firm's controversial Darktown Comics spawned the focus of this year's workshop, which is entitled "The Dark Side of Currier & Ives". Instructors will examine the Darktown series to explore how the ideals of American democracy and opportunity were experienced by all groups of people, including African Americans, Native Americans, and women. The workshop is part of the overall partnership project about Currier & Ives funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I've been picking prints, transcribing and reviewing multiple tapes, writing, and finding 19th century music for the 12 minute video that will be featured at the workshop. The finished product will give a glimpse of the documentaries to come and prove useful for educational and promotional purposes. Because we've shot so much already and because there are so many wonderful prints to choose from, this has been an exercise in paring down: choices, choices, choices! We'll be editing the piece this week.

Also this week, the crew will be heading to a summer auction in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to tape with a man you may recognize from "Antiques Roadshow": auctioneer Ron Bourgeault of Northeast Auctions. He is a powerhouse in the art world and he'll give us his unique perspective as an appraiser and auctioneer who often deals with Currier & Ives prints.

Work is underway on the animations of certain C&I prints for the series open and the creative design team behind this effort has some very exciting ideas! The website design is updated and you can check that out at

That's it for now.

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