The Photograph Collector, Museum and Non-Profit Row

September 2016, Vol. 37, No. 9, p. 8.

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Penelope Dixon and Karen Gaines have announced the launch of a nonprofit organization, the Photography Collections Preservation Project (PCPP), dedicated to the preservation of important mid- and late-twentieth-century photography for future generations. The organization has an urgent task: to make sure that important but increasingly vulnerable photographic archives are placed with the best, most appropriate U.S. institutions and made easily available to scholars, students, the general public, and future generations. 

“Photographers’ archives — their work and the contextual material relating to it — are priceless repositories of historical memory, critical for scholars, students, and the general public,” said Ms. Dixon. “From the earliest days of photography, pictures have been invaluable primary sources for an understanding of everyday life and great historical events, often the only primary sources that survive.” 

The number of important twentieth-century collections that are still unorganized, whether still in their creators’ hands or their heirs’, is rapidly increasing. Fortunately, so is awareness of the irreplaceable nature of these cultural, historical, and educational assets. PCPP is dedicated to identifying the most significant work that could become subject to degradation or loss, then finding an institutional home whose mission and resources meet the nature of the work. It will assist in preparing archives for accession when necessary, as well as providing likely institutions with assessments of accession conditions and contingencies for each archive — a neutral party that serves only the interest of the photographs’ wellbeing and ready, long-term access to them.

In that endeavor, the organization will fill a vital need, creating a forum and clearinghouse of information for the work, its creators, and its current and future custodians. “PCPP will bring together all parties,” said Karen Gaines, PCPP’s executive director. “This will include the photographers, their heirs, curators and institutions looking to expand their collections, experts in fine-art photography and photojournalism, top archivists, collectors, experts in collection management, the greater artistic community, and anyone else interested in preserving our photographic heritage for posterity.”

Board Chair Penelope Dixon, a world-renowned authority in the field of modern photography, is the president of Penelope Dixon & Associates, Inc. of Miami and New York, and has been a leading photography appraiser for more than 35 years. She has served on the boards of the Appraisers Association of America (NY), Photogroup (Miami), and the Center for Photography (Woodstock, NY). She writes and lectures widely on photography and the appraisal of photographic collections. 

Executive Director Karen Gaines is a longtime photo editor who served in that capacity at several of Time Inc. magazines, including People and Time, where she worked closely with the preeminent photojournalists of the mid- to late twentieth century. She also ran photographic coverage for the official record of President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration and worked with the Smithsonian Institution on its exhibition of those pictures. A graduate of Tufts with a BFA in Photography, she is currently finishing her postgraduate work in information science to better serve PCPP’s mission.

You can contact Karen Gaines, Founder andExecutive Director, PCPP, at (202) 320-2922 or karenlgaines@yahoo.com; and Penelope Dixon, Founder and Board Chair, PCPP, at (305) 205-6046 or pad@peneloped.com.