Archives, Photographs, Ephemera, Artists' Books

The Frederick Douglass Archive Project stemmed from an assignment given by Matt Walker ( at the Visual Studies Workshop, with the purpose of enhancing the classes’ knowledge of archives and archival processes. Students explored the creation, development, maintenance, meaning, and importance of archives through this class. The VSW also allows the fantastic opportunity to have hands-on experience dealing with precious materials in an archive; there are some true treasures in both the accessioned and unaccessioned collections at the Workshop.

My interest in the Frederick Douglass archive comes from both a personal interest in the historical figure, and my interest in archives as bodies of representation. I’ve been particularly inspired by Doug Manchee’s work with the Visual Studies Workshop’s own archive ( While much of the Frederick Douglass archive is digitized, the website gives very little feeling for the archive as a body and a collection. I feel that in the archive as a body- in it’s collection and preservation- is an insightful, often tender representation of what is contained within the archive. In visiting the University of Rochester’s collection, I hoped to only witness this, but capture it and represent it. The photographs that resulted from this visit allow me to share the fullness of the Frederick Douglass archive: not by representing specific materials therein, but by representing some of what has been preserved and how those objects are catalogued, maintained, and treasured. Thus also treasuring the memory of this great historical figure.

Amanda Chestnut 2013 Visual Studies Workshop