MTSU’s Baldwin Photographic Gallery now has a new state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled archive on campus that will give faculty, staff and students more access to its extensive collection and allow the university to determine a more definitive value of a rich trove of visual art.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee joined Department of Media Arts faculty, staff and a host of gallery supporters recently to cut the ribbon on the home of the new Baldwin Photographic Collection and Archive, located in Room 2300 of the Miller Education Center at 503 E. Bell St.
Also attending the March 20 ribbon-cutting were special guests Harold Baldwin, gallery founder and professor emeritus, and Mary Alice Rouslin, widow of longtime gallery curator and professor Tom Jimison, who died in 2017.
Over the years, Baldwin and Jimison built a permanent collection of purchased works by featured artists such as Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Edward Weston, Minor White and Jerry Uelsmann, in addition to hundreds of prints by students.
“It’s worked out great,” Baldwin said of the new archive as he watched visitors tour the archive’s reading room. “It needed to be done.”
Baldwin joined Middle Tennessee State Teachers College in 1959 in the then-Industrial Arts Department and founded the printing program, which quickly evolved into a new photography program. By 1964, he’d launched gallery exhibitions.
Jimison took over as curator in 1991 after Baldwin’s retirement and shepherded the gallery’s move, with Baldwin’s personal and financial support, from the McWherter Learning Resources Center to its current location on the second floor of the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building.
With the new archive, which is equipped with a temperature- and humidity-controlled vault and a reading room area, faculty, students and the community can study the photographic works up close and use them for research across a variety of academic disciplines, and faculty also can teach the art and science of archiving and preserving.
“Thanks to Harold’s and Tom’s inspired vision, our entire community has opportunities to view exhibitions from nationally and internationally renowned photographic artists over the last half century,” McPhee told the crowd gathered in the atrium of the MEC.
“Their keen eye for talent, refined sense of aesthetic, and willingness to help nurture talent have resulted in a spectacular collection of work created by current students, alumni, and some of the great photographers of our time.”
Gallery curator Jackie Heigle, also a media arts professor, said the first plan for the archive is to produce a public online catalog of the entire collection, which she estimates includes as many as 1,500 prints. The effort will provide opportunities for student internships to help update digital records, she said.
“Our goal is to provide an online presentation of all the works in the collection so that people can look online to see what is there,” Heigle said. “And if they want to see the original works, which might be the case for people doing research … then we’ll bring the works out.”
The archive will also be used to conduct an official appraisal of the collection, said Billy Pittard, chair of the Department of Media Arts.
“This facility will allow us to finally … actually do it. We’re going to be able to get a value of each item,” said Pittard.
He also noted that adding the archive allows the gallery to expand the types of exhibits it features and provides another layer of instruction to a “unique” photography program at MTSU, which can train students in creative/fine arts photography, commercial photography and documentary photography.
Rouslin recalled how she and Jimison opened their home to the many visual artists over the years whose exhibits were featured at the gallery. She’s asked Heigle for a list of all the exhibits hosted by the gallery during her husband’s tenure.
“It was such an invigorating part of Tom’s job at MTSU,” Rouslin said, holding the blue and white bow as a memento from the ribbon-cutting.
“It was a lot of hard work … Tom was a very quiet man, but he just made it all look effortless. He was a passionate photographer.”
The Baldwin Photographic Collection and Archive inside the Miller Education Center is available to the public by appointment only. To set up an appointment, email Heigle at Jackie.Heigle@mtsu.edu.
For more information about MTSU’s Baldwin Photographic Gallery, located in the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building, visit http://baldwinphotogallery.com.
The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays when MTSU classes are in session. A searchable campus map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTParkingMap. Off-campus visitors can get a special one-day permit at www.mtsu.edu/parking/visit.php from MTSU’s Office of Parking and Transportation at 1403 E. Main St.
— Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)