Online Collections

The Smithsonian American Art Museum
Photography Collection

The permanent collection of photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum was established in 1983, when the National Endowment for the Arts transferred more than 1,500 photographs by American photographers who had received NEA grants. The museum continued to acquire modern and contemporary images, as well as significant collections of work by Aaron Siskind, Diane Arbus, Timothy O'Sullivan, and Irving Penn.

The historical holdings expanded in 1994, when the museum acquired a collection of nineteenth century American photography. Other landmark acquisitions—such as the Consolidated Natural Gas collection of contemporary landscape photography, work by the New York Photo League, photographs by African American and Latino artists—and wide ranging exhibition and publication programs—including the art of Man Ray, American daguerreotypes, and contemporary photographic art—established the museum as a major site for the study of American photography.

  The First Century of American Photographs  

The First Century of American Photographs

This web presentation includes more than 175 nineteenth- and early twentieth-century daguerreotypes and photographs with image details, curatorial discussions, and audio commentary.

  Contemporary American Landscape  

Contemporary American Landscape Photography

Featuring ninety works by thirty-nine artists, this online collection displays a range of recent photographic landscapes, from stunning panormas and majestic views to nuclear waste sites. Also featured are essays from the catalogue by Merry A. Foresta, Stephen J. Gould, and Karol Ann Marling that accompanied the 1992 the Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition, Between Home and Heaven: Contemporary American Landscape Photography.

  American Daguerreotypes  

American Daguerreotypes

This online tour includes portraits, landscapes, and occupational daguerreotypes. A large selection of nineteenth-century literature about the daguerreotype is available, as well as excerpts from the 1995 Smithsonian American Art Museum publication and exhibition, Secrets of the Dark Chamber: The Art of the American Daguerreotype.



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