Episode 99: Finding Photos on the Smithsonian Learning Lab with Curator Shannon Perich

Stuck at home during this pandemic looking for something fun to do? Look no further than the National Museum of American History’s Photographic History Collection and the Smithsonian Learning Lab.  The Photographic History Collection (PHC) represents the history of the medium of photography from the daguerreotype era to the present.  In numbers that adds up to over 2000 identified photographers and studios, about 200,000 photographs, and about 15,000 cameras, pieces of apparatus, studio equipment. You can search, share and save items you find.  It’s a research rabbit hole. I spent hours looking for items the first time I went on the site.  One of my favorites is an early daguerreotype of a group standing on the banks of Niagara Falls without safety precautions. 

My guest has spent the last several months organizing digitized images into virtual collections with the Smithsonian Learning Lab, an online resource.  It’s possible to create your own “collection” of images for research.  Teachers can create modules their students can use too. 

The last time I searched the Smithsonian collection it was overwhelming. Thanks to Shannon, I can find what I need and save it for next time. Here’s one really cool thing. Each image has a unique permanent URL meaning you can use it and locate the image later. 

If you’ve seen a photo exhibit at the National Museum of American History then likely Shannon had something to do with it. 

Related Episodes:

Episode 48: Finding Photos of Your Ancestors


About My Guest:

Shannon Thomas Perich is the Curator in the Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History where she has worked for over twenty years. Recently published as a co-author of When the Circus Came to Town! An American Tradition in Photographs (Smithsonian Scholarly Press 2020). She has an article about early photographic patents in an upcoming publication on the history of copyright and control of art in the nineteenth century (OpenBooks, 2021). Perich was lead curator for The American Scene, an online web project that explores the history and power of American entertainment through a series of interviews and artifacts. She is the author of Changing Face of Portrait Photography: From Daguerreotype to Digital (Smithsonian Books, 2012) and Portrait of Family (Harper Collins, 2007) about Richard Avedon’s photographs of the John F. Kennedy Family.  

Her exhibitions include, Laughing Matters at the National Museum of American History, and Country: Portraits of An American Sound at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.  Other exhibitions include, Pushing Boundaries: Portraits by Robert Weingarten, The Civil War Experience at the Smithsonian, and Honky-Tonk: Photographs by Henry Horenstein, 1972-1981. She has taught History of Photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Her blogs can be found on the National Museum of American History’s website and NPR’s Picture Show. Perich’s research often explores the dynamic intersections of the art, technology and history of photography, especially where the personal experience and national narratives are at play.

About Maureen Taylor:

Maureen is a frequent keynote speaker on photo identification, photograph preservation, and family history at historical and genealogical societies, museums, conferences, libraries, and other organizations across the U.S., London and Canada.  She’s the author of several books and hundreds of articles and her television appearances include The View and The Today Show (where she researched and presented a complete family tree for host Meredith Vieira).  She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, The Boston Globe, Martha Stewart Living, Germany’s top newspaper Der Spiegel, American Spirit, and The New York Times. Maureen was recently a spokesperson and photograph expert for MyHeritage.com, an internationally known family history website and also writes guidebooks, scholarly articles and online columns for such media as Smithsonian.com. Learn more at Maureentaylor.com

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