Through a combination of gift and purchase, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, has acquired the Hallmark Photographic Collection, one of the premier collections of American photography and the basis of several major books on the subject including the landmark "An American Century of Photography, From Dry-Plate to Digital, 2nd edition, which was published in 1999. The collection will form the foundation of a new photography department at the museum, which will be headed up by Keith Davis, the current curator of the Hallmark photography collection. Davis will split his time between what he terms "somewhat reduced Hallmark duties" and his curatorial responsibilities at the museum.
Begun in 1964 with a purchase of 141 prints by Harry Callahan, the collection grew to over 6,500 works by over 900 artists, from 1839 to the present. Most are American images or by American photographers.
Hallmark and the Hall family have been long-time major supporters of the museum and had a desire for the collection to benefit the greater Kansas City region, so this is apparently a perfect fit. The museum has a major campus transformation project currently underway that includes the addition of the new 165,000-sq. ft. Bloch Building (opening in 2007), the renovation of the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building, the reinstallation of its varied collections and the expansion of the museum's sculpture park. The $200-million project will increase museum space by 71%, providing new galleries and support space. The new photography department will take advantage of this expansion immediately. A special exhibition of 31 representative works from the Hallmark Photographic Collection will be on view at the museum from now until April 16.
Another major announcement about other projects related to the collection will be made this spring.