A two-year federal grant has enabled the Museum to digitize and publish thousands of new photographs

Norman Rockwell and Robert Kennedy

Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s portrait of Robert F. Kennedy, c. 1968. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. All rights reserved.

Stockbridge, MA, October 24, 2014—Norman Rockwell Museum announces the new accessibility of tens of thousands of digitized black-and-white photographs from its Norman Rockwell Photographic Print Collection—the largest single collection in the Norman Rockwell Archive. Digital images are now freely viewable on the Museum’s website under “View the Collections,” and by appointment through the Stockbridge museum’s Reference Center, which has a computer workstation to accommodate its many visiting researchers.

Consisting of 239 boxes of approximately 50,000 images, this high-value but mostly un-catalogued collection had been largely inaccessible to the Museum’s curators, to visiting researchers and curators, and to the general public.

When Museum Archivist Venus Van Ness did a cursory examination of the boxes three years ago, she discovered many photos the staff had never seen before. “We felt these images would provide a unique window into Mr. Rockwell’s working process, his personal life, and the times in which he lived,” exclaimed Van Ness. Processing this collection could open new dialogue about Rockwell, historic events and movements he documented, the American ideals he conveyed, and other illustrators who were his teachers or contemporaries—enabling broad public access to material that is part of America’s rich cultural heritage.

Norman Rockwell and Ann-Margret

Reference photo of Norman Rockwell’s Portrait of Ann-Margret, c. 1965. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. All rights reserved.

Among the many boxes were reference photos Rockwell used to compose his paintings, photos of work in progress, and candid shots of him working and interacting with John Wayne, Ann-Margret, Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, and many other twentieth-century icons who posed for the artist in his Stockbridge studio, on location at a movie set, at the White House, or—as in the case of Kennedy—at his Hyannis Port home on Cape Cod.

The project was made possible by a $150,000 matching grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The effort took two full years, and was completed by August 2014.  It involved identifying and documenting every photograph, determining if the positive prints had corresponding negatives, and then digitizing those that did not have negatives. Nearly 20,000 photographs were selected to be digitized by Chicago Albumen Works, located in Housatonic, MA, near the Museum.

In addition to digitizing selected prints, the images were organized and catalogued according to current archival standards—making them far easier to retrieve for use in future exhibitions and publications.

The Museum’s curators and archives staff are very excited about the opportunities for new scholarship this major effort offers. Not only will the newly digitized collection help them, but it also will support other curators, researchers, and graduate students in their own scholarly pursuits.

“Norman Rockwell’s photographic collection is a tremendous resource,” notes Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. “It informs us about the people he met, his travels, his ability to coach the right expressions from his models, and much more about American life in the twentieth century. We are deeply grateful to the Institute of Museum and Library Services for this grant, which makes it possible for us to share this collection with the world. In addition to supporting future exhibitions, education programs, and scholarly publications, the images now can be enjoyed through media experiences we are creating for mobile devices and in our galleries to illuminate Norman Rockwell’s working process.”

The Museum’s new digital experiences project is getting underway with support from yet another IMLS matching grant awarded in September.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov.