At the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. it’s always thrilling to see how researchers – academics, artists, architects, writers, house history buffs and hobbyists alike – make use of the collections that the Society holds in trust for the public. The reference staff, along with our incredible cast of volunteers and interns, love holding hot-off-the-press books that reference our holdings, love the blog posts that highlight images found in the Kiplinger Research Library, love seeing how graduate papers and high school presentations put a new spin on historic materials.
So it’s easy to imagine how gratifying it must be for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, one of New York Public Library’s star research centers, to see how artist Jacob Lawrence’s extensive efforts as a researcher informed his artistic output, and in particular his seminal work, the “Migration Series.”
As the New York Times recently noted, “A good part of the time and energy spent on the “Migration Series” went into preparatory reading and note-taking. He did most of this at the 135th Street Public Library, which is now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.” The Schomberg is a partner on a new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – and several of the exhibition’s text panels reinforce the influence that having access to research space and historic material had on Lawrence’s work.
Now, beyond a shared commitment to research and historical discovery, what does this have to do with the Historical Society? Well, if you’d like to see a bit of the Historical Society outside of Washington, D.C., get yourself a round-trip fare up to New York to see “One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North,” on view at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) now through September 7!
The new exhibition, according to MoMA, “highlights the ways in which Lawrence and others in his circles developed innovative artistic strategies to offer perspectives on [the Great Migration, a] crucial episode in American history.” As a contributor to the exhibition, the Historical Society got a sneak preview just before it opened to the public on April 3 – and what a show it is. (We’re not the only ones to think so; check out the New York Times review!)
For the first time in nearly 20 years, all 60 panels of Lawrence’s masterpiece are reunited in New York. (The collection is evenly divided between MoMA and the Philips Collection, here in Washington). The panels rightfully form the heart of the exhibition – but this show not only brings together the work the twenty-three-year-old artist created in 1941, but also immerses the viewer in the music, poetry, photography, social commentary and other evidence and influences of the time. It’s in this wonderful contextual company that an item from the Historical Society’s pamphlet collection finds itself. Now – much like we did regarding the current loan to the Anacostia Community Museum – that’s all we’re going to say about the specific item on loan; head on up to the show to find out more!
This exhibit was organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The exhibition at MoMA is organized by Leah Dickerman, The Marlene Hess Curator of Painting and Sculpture, with Jodi Roberts, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.