Browse Exhibits (25 total)

Gilsonfest: The Exceptional Journey of Alexander Gilson

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Gilsonfest was a Bard College–led collaboration including Historic Red Hook, the Dutchess County Historical Society, and the Red Hook Quilters, funded by the Lumina Foundation, that focused on the life of Alexander Gilson (c. 1824–89). Gilson was an African American who labored for 50 years at Montgomery Place, eventually becoming the head gardener. Gilsonfest featured lectures, exhibitions at the Historic Red Hook Annex and Bard's Montgomery Place Campus, new signage, a commissioned quilt, an artistic digital display, and a brochure. Bard students in Professor Myra Young Armstead's spring 2019 course “The Window at Montgomery Place,” an Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences offering, conducted historical research and assisted in developing the exhibition in partnership with historians and Bard staff. Gilsonfest focused on and interpreted the life of Gilson, which allowed the project to illuminate the contributions of African Americans in 19th-century New York and the Hudson Valley, including the experiences of slaves, indentured servants, and free-born blacks.

The New Hindu Pantheon

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The New Hindu Pantheon, Mechanically Reproduced:
Ganesh and Goddesses from the Richard Davis God Poster Collection

In India one sees them everywhere: bright wide-eyed Hindu deities, in poster form, perched above cash registers in restaurants and clothing shops, glued to the dashboards of taxis and buses, and framed on the walls of temples and home shrines. These mass-produced chromolithographs or “god-posters” (also called “calendar prints,” “framing pictures,” or “bazaar art”) occupy a central place in the visual landscape of modern India. They have altered the shape of modern Hinduism through their ubiquity, but until recently they have remained on the periphery of scholarly attention.

Starting in the late nineteenth century, pioneer artists and entrepreneurs in the urban centers of colonial India began to recognize the commercial potential of new technologies of mechanical reproduction to create religious images for popular
consumption.

The first print publishers were based in Calcutta and Poona. In 1894 the renowned portrait artist Ravi Varma founded a new lithographic press that distributed his high-quality printed images throughout the subcontinent. New presses started up in other centers, and by the time of Indian independence in 1947 the industry was immense. Larger printing firms would offer dozens of new designs and turn out 10 million images a year.

Mass production and dissemination of these posters of the gods educated Hindu consumers as a collectivity. Through nationwide distribution, prints engendered a shared visual understanding among Indians throughout all regions of the country. But it also enabled individual Hindus, through inexpensive choices, to construct their own domestic pantheons of gods.

This exhibition drawn from the Davis God Poster Collection has also constructed its own pantheon. It focuses on images of Hindu goddesses and on the widely-popular elephant-headed god Ganesha. Sarasvati is the patron goddess of libraries, and Ganesha is the remover of obstacles.

– Richard Davis

Abolition/Resistance

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Works from the Alan Sussman Rare Book Collection

Curated by Kristin Waters, ’73
Resident Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center, 
Brandeis University, Massachusetts

From Europe to Africa to the Americas, the deepest story of colonial settlement is resistance to racial oppression. Guided by his discerning collector’s eye and deep commitment to civil rights, Alan Sussman amassed an unparalleled collection of works on transatlantic slavery and the struggle against subjugation. This exhibition selects works ranging from treatises against slavery by Granville Sharpe, Olaudah Equiano, William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, to those supporting the inferiority hypothesis by Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson Davis. Rare editions of self-emancipation narratives by Frederick Douglass, Charles Ball, and the vast enumerations of William Still, the “Father of the Underground Railroad,” who sponsored Harriet Tubman and many others provide an illustrated chronicle of the frontline of resistance. 

The exhibition aims to entice the viewer both to explore the Sussman Collection through the Bard archives and to find parallel stories in contemporary form: Colson Whitehead’s award-winning novel, Underground Railroad and James McBride’s rendition of John Brown’s battles in “Bleeding Kansas” in his award-winning novel The Good Lord Bird, and Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings about the Quaker Sarah Grimké’s fight against slavery.  

The struggle continued in the 20th century, revealed through the rare and priceless works of Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Amiri Baraka, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, and George Jackson, all represented here along with James Baldwin, who wrote, “I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”  This collection and exhibition record the love and pain that are at the heart of our ongoing struggles.

Above: “Desperate Conflict in a Barn,” from William Still, Underground Rail Road; A History of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters & etc. (Philadelphia) 1872, from the Alan Sussman Rare Book Collection, Stevenson Library, Bard College. This wood engraving by C.H. Reed depicts an incident that is said to have occurred in a barn in Terrytown, Maryland in 1853. In search of freedom, four Virginia slaves, Robert Jackson, Craven Matterson, and the latter’s two brothers escaped and travelled north. In Maryland, they were discovered by a man who saw them hiding in a thicket. According to the accompanying narrative, the man, who “talked like a Quaker,” urged them to go to his barn for protection. The man, however, betrayed them, and a group of authorities arrived soon thereafter. A struggle ensued, during the course of which Jackson and Craven were shot, as well as the man who betrayed them.
Text source: https://digital.librarycompany.org/
Above banner from left to right: Frederick Douglass, William Still, Harriet Tubman, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Olaudah Equiano 

US-Russian Relations and the Founding of the UN

A digitial exhibition on US-Russian Relations and the founding of the United Nations. Prepared and curated by Bard students