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Portrait project takes shape at South Caroliniana Library

Oct 12, 2012 11:49 AM
A South Caroliniana Library project is painting a more complete picture of the 52 18th- and 19th-century portraits in the library’s collection.

“Thirty-eight of the portraits are on display in the first-floor Manuscripts Room and the second-floor Kendall Room,” said Laura Hughes, who completed the project as part of her museum curator certificate. “This is Jonathan Maxcy, first president of South Carolina College. Here’s USC President James Rion McKissick. General Andrew Pickens. Mrs. Robert Woodward Barnwell, or Eliza Barnwell. Anna Jane White. James Woodrow, who was Woodrow Wilson’s uncle and one-time president of USC.

“My job was to research and expand the information about all of the portraits,” she said. “Some lacked artist information, others lacked the subject or date.”

A large part of the project was putting the information into a database, said Beth Bilderback, Head of Visual Materials Collections and project supervisor.

“This project has taken us from information on loose paper to a computerized database,” she said. “Laura’s first task was to take the information she had collected and create adequate, uniform labeling for all of the portraits: subject’s name, who they were, and the artist. That information went into a database, along with information about each portrait’s condition and conservation needs, and that will be a great help to us.”

This fall Hughes is developing a brochure and print catalog, which will be important resources for library visitors.

“This project has provided us with a lot of information on our collection, and we feel it will greatly enhance future research into art in South Carolina,” said Henry Fulmer, Head of Manuscripts. “When we have scholars and other visitors come into the library to see the portraits, we’ll be able to provide them with more complete information.”

In the photo above, Beth Bilderback, Laura Hughes and Henry Fulmer stand next to a portrait by William Harrison Scarborough. The oil on canvas depicts Mary Hart Brockington and Peter Brockington Bacot, ca. 1835-40.