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"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Historic John Brown Photo Chronology Exhibit Featured at the Kansas State Historical Society Until July: A Note from Jean Libby

Dear friends,

I am honored to announce the move of the traveling copy of the John Brown Photo Chronology exhibition for its next display at the Kansas State Library and Archives Historical Research Gallery in Topeka from April 26, 2010 to July 31, 2010.

Much gratitude is expressed to the National Archives and Records Administration at Philadelphia for hosting the exhibition from mid-November 2009 to April 2010 and greatly improving it with frames (which they donated) and educational text panels.

An exhibition is a living thing because it has the elasticity of change and improvement with contribution by the archives which own the originals. The biggest change is the addition of the reproduction of a salt print of the bearded John Brown by M. M. Lawrence, the original daguerreotype photographer.

The Curator of Photography at the Library of Congress, Carol M. Johnson, placed the M. M. Lawrence print online for research in November 2009. As well as a new panel for the exhibition (including the permanent exhibition at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park) I have created an insert page for the published catalog, which is the "Look Inside the Book" feature for an upcoming conference.

The revelation of the M. M. Lawrence print and the continued contribution of historian friends and John and Mary Brown's descendants, Paul Keesey and his daughter Alice Keesey Mecoy, provide the frame for the timetable of the making of the bearded photograph into discrete versions from one portrait sitting, which occurred in late May, 1858, in New York City.

What is intriguing for historians and biographers is that these versions were directed by John Brown himself in the spring of 1859 as he was preparing to liberate slaves in Virginia in the coming months, beginning at Harpers Ferry.

I welcome communication on these findings and will be pleased to mail copies of the complete academic narrative of the exhibition at individual request.

Many thanks to Leslie Simon and Andrea Reidell at NARA in Philadelphia; to Pat Michaelis and Nancy Sherbert at the Kansas State Library and Archives in Topeka, and to Debbie Piscitelli and the Harpers Ferry Historical Association in West Virginia for hosting the John Brown Photo Chronology exhibition. The permanent exhibition is at Harpers Ferry NHP, also nicely framed as a contribution by the HFHa.

Jean Libby

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