Curating Kinship: Arabella Chapman Albums
Curating Kinship: Arabella Chapman Albums. Circa 1850-1900.
As exchanging photographs grew in popularity, people desired a method for organizing and protecting their pictures. Carte de visite photo albums are small leather-bound books with paper slots and brass latches to safely secure photographic images in the carte de visite format. The albums were often displayed in the home for guests to explore or used as a personal keepsake for private viewing. The collector could curate the pictures to represent family memories, friendships, or political leanings. Each album grants the viewer a peek into the collector’s social relationships and cultural interests. An example of this is the Arabella Chapman Albums.
Arabella Chapman was an African American music teacher from Albany, New York who curated two photo albums from her cartes de visite and tintype collection. Each album is a similar but different collection of constructed communities; one book mostly displays Chapman’s family, while the other features family, friends and political figures. Explore a selection of the collection presented in the rows below to catch a glimpse into Arabella’s public and private worlds.
Arabella Chapman Carte-de-Visite Albums, Clements Library.