Hi friends! Please consider this your invitation to join me for a spooky little October book club, sponsored by the Ackland Art Museum! I was a curatorial intern there from 2011-2012 and loved every minute of it. This fall, the Ackland is exhibiting selections from their truly remarkable collection of photography in a show called PhotoVision. In conjunction with the show, I will be leading a discussion of the book Eight Girls Taking Pictures, by Whitney Otto, which intersects with the photography on views in interesting ways. In addition, the Ackland’s Head Curator, Peter Nisbet, will start us off with a mini-lecture about the exhibit.
Not only does PhotoVision include some of the most stunning works from the Ackland’s photography collection, it also showcases their newly-acquired carte-de-visite of Mrs. William Mumler, Clairvoyant Physician. This spirit photograph was produced by none other than William Mumler himself, who “discovered” spirit photography in 1862, near the height of the craze for seances in the mid-nineteenth century. Mumler is a leading character in my own research, as he took a spirit photograph of Abraham Lincoln around 1872. His life and career also makes for very fun reading. In 1869, the state of New York tried Mumler for fraud, with Elbridge Gerry as the prosecuting attorney and P.T. Barnum as an expert witness on hoaxes. Try as they might, the prosecution could not prove that Mumler’s process was counterfeit, so he got away with it. For more on Mumler, I highly recommend Louis Kaplan’s book The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer.
If you’d like to join our free book discussion on Sunday, October 26, 2:00-3:30, please be sure to register here.