Photography students at the University of New Mexico have access to a wide array of resources, including collections from the Fine Arts & Design Library (FADL), the UNM Art Museum (UNMAM) and the Center for Southwest Research (CSWR).
The FADL covers a wide range of academic topics in photography research, all of which can be browsed online or in-person during limited hours. Students can also schedule Zoom sessions for help with research or resources, according to librarian Stephanie Beene.
The photography section covers “information on cameras and the history of cameras, as well as photographic processing and different darkroom techniques; newer techniques and media and the shift to digital, outdoor photography; artistic photography over the years, as well as more photojournalistic methods; information about individual photographers; applied photography, including artistic, commercial, medical photography, cinematography and motion picture photography,” according to Beene.
“For years, UNM was ranked nationally as in the top five photography programs and so we have a really strong library collection to support it,” Beene wrote in an email to the Daily Lobo. “We are still in the top ten.”
UNMAM has around 10,000 photographs from over 1,000 different photographers, as well as early cased objects, according to its website. Collections associate Heather Kline said this is approximately a third of UNMAM’s collection overall and includes almost every photographic process.
“The goal was to be somewhat encyclopedic in what it included in terms of process and technique of the history of photography,” Kline said.
While UNMAM remains closed to the general public, its collection is still available for students to view via appointment.
“What’s really cool for us is to be able to pull those prints out and actually be able to show them to students and have them experience that firsthand — that viewing experience of being able to see these objects that are really rare,” Kline said.
The UNMAM photography collection originated with Van Deren Coke, the founding director of UNMAM. Coke was a photo historian who largely collected in the 1960s, around the time of UNMAM’s inception. During this period, collecting items from famous artists was easier than it is now.
“Back in the '60s, photography wasn’t really known as a fine art … (Photography) wasn’t really admired in the same way as something that would be necessarily at the level of a museum,” Kline said. “It was sort of a visionary thing … (Coke) could already see that they had value and were sort of on the same level as these other art forms, that they would be worthwhile to be in a museum collection.”
Pictorial collections are also available through the CSWR, located in Zimmerman library, via appointment. Cindy Abel Morris, a pictorial archivist, said the facility is accessible as a resource for students.
The CSWR currently has between 250,000 and 500,000 items overall, including prints and negatives, according to Abel Morris. The facility has over 500 individual collections, and averages about 10 new collections a year. These items are mostly photographs, but there are also prints and other illustrative items included.
The FADL has a special collections area set aside, which includes rare editions that can only be browsed online. UNMAM has also published some of its collections digitally, and Abel Morris said the CSWR has an online presence through Rocky Mountain Archives and New Mexico Digital Collections.
Abel Morris said there are two primary reasons she decides to publish online: if the material is of local or popular interest, or if there is a unique quality that will draw public interest in the collections.
“Our general collecting policy is one where we want to highlight the southwest and regional collections,” Abel Morris said.
UNMAM and the CSWR primarily receive items from donations, but also have some acquisition funds set aside for more collections, according to Kline and Abel Morris.
“We get a lot of donations now that people know that we are one of the preeminent collections of photography in the country,” Kline said. “That sort of draws them to us as a place to leave their collections.”
Hands-on facilities like these are eager to have students back on campus to direct more in-person visitors. While Abel Morris said attendance at the CSWR has boosted slightly, Kline said UNMAM is seeing less students compared to pre-pandemic times.
“The experience of being in a museum, you can’t really replicate it with a digital experience,” Kline said.
Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716