At the Museum: Pioneering Photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston

The photography of West Virginia native Frances Benjamin Johnston will be on display at Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park Museum in November. “Frances Benjamin Johnston: West Virginia Icon,” is sponsored by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia with a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council. The new exhibit will be traveling around the Mountaineer state during the coming year.

This exceptional exhibit includes enlargements of 26 rare photographs from the Library of Congress collection that embody Johnston’s career over the span of sixty years. Johnston was a trained artist and photojournalist who worked as a portrait photographer for high society in Washington, D.C. including Teddy Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington and Mark Twain. She transitioned into photographing gardens of the rich and famous during the 1920’s and then became interested in architecture, especially humble dwellings of colonial times that were falling into ruin without ever being photographed. Between 1933 and 1941, Johnston traveled extensively throughout the American South for a series of assignments known as “surveys,” funded by grants from the Carnegie Corporation. Johnston’s photographic surveys became her greatest legacy.

The exhibit includes a diverse range of her work from ruins of slave quarters to grand plantations. “Johnston felt it was her mission to preserve the old buildings of yesterday through photography before they were lost entirely,” Ksenia Bradner, AmeriCorps member and curator of the exhibit said. “Thankfully, 21st century historians are now re-examining people of color and women who have been overlooked, and Frances Benjamin Johnston deserves credit for the remarkable legacy she left of historic preservation. We are grateful that the West Virginia Humanities Council provided us a grant so that we can properly bring these photographs to life.”

The exhibit is open to the public, and will be on display in the Blennerhassett Island Museum from November 1-30, 2020.

The Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History is open Tuesday – Sunday. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. through September 7, 2020 and from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. September 8 – December 21, 2020.

 

Event Details

  • Start Date: November 1 - 30, 2020
  • End Date: November 30, 2020

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