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Welcome to Helios, the Smithsonian American Art Museum's photography outpost in cyberspace, and our inaugural presentation of American Photographs: The First Century.

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By acquiring the The Charles Isaacs Collection of American Photography through purchase and gift, the museum has added 303 images to its permanent collection that complement specific paintings, almost like missing pieces of a puzzle. Fortunately for the museum, Charles Isaacs had a collector's eye for striking images, a conservator's passion for pristine condition, a curator's appreciation of history, and a dealer's understanding of the market. Over the years, the American views, portraits, and scenes of daily life he found grew into a major collection, including most of the artists now recognized as important, as well as others yet to be researched.
American Photographs: The First Century presents a wide-ranging selection of photographs from this collection, including Civil War images by George Barnard and the Mathew Brady Studio, spectacular western landscapes by Timothy O'Sullivan and William Henry Jackson, as well as Pictorialist scenes by Clarence White and Gertrude Kasebier. A deliberate effort has been made to mix familiar and lesser-known photographers, styles of work, and a variety of processes in order to explore ideas about the influence of photographic culture in America during the years from 1839 to 1939.


"Years of collaboration" is the phrase that can be applied to the Dominion Foundation, which announced a multi-year partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum for the purpose of preserving and presenting the nation's heritage through photography. The Dominion Foundation began its association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1987 by providing funds for the acquisition of 300 contemporary landscape photographs, offering a varied portrait of America's land at the end of the twentieth century. The foundation then contributed funds to exhibit the collection, publish it in a handsome book titled Between Home and Heaven, and circulate it nationwide. The newly announced partnership will provide support for the Isaacs Collection exhibition and book, and for Helios.

Helios is the name given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum's online photography efforts. While the first featured project is the Charles Isaacs Collection of Early American Photography and the related exhibition, American Photographs: The First Century, Helios is intended as a platform for all of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's photography efforts as well as a resource for photography and visual culture on the web, wherever it merits attention.


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