Americans were visualizing history long before they were called Americans. In the beginning they picked up tools and left images on stone or on hides recording their beliefs, their experiences and their dreams. Then artists and engravers began illustrating books, newsprint and periodicals—pictoralizing history and capturing current events. With the introduction of the camera Americans seized another tool for documenting and interpreting their world,  first with still images then with moving ones. Whatever the means, or whenever the time, and wherever the place, today we have a rich legacy of visual history and to explore, analyze, and enjoy.

Picturing the Past: Illustrated Histories and the American Imagination, 1840-1900

  • Interactive exhibit about illustrated histories

By focusing on the production history of two major illustrated histories from the mid-nineteenth century (John Frost’s Pictorial History of the United States and Jesse Spencer’s History of the United States), this exhibit suggests how visual images gradually became first acceptable, then desirable, and finally indispensable to historical thinking. Interactive graphics, magnified images and text illuminate the relationships among publishers, artists and historians of illustrated histories.  Enter exhibit >

Quilts as Visual History

  • Online exhibit about history of quilts

Homespun calico, patchwork pieces, embroidered needlework—all reveal a rich visual history. Quilts combine colors, textures, patterns, and techniques to reveal cultural, social, economic, and gender history. From creation to preservation, these textiles divulge historical segments of utility, family, community, culture, politics,  geography, and memory.  Enter exhibit >