The Museum of Fine Arts' Currier & Ives 2007 lecture series will conclude on February 25, at 2 p.m., with "Currier & Ives and the Emergence of American Mass Media," presented by Daniel Czitrom, professor of history at Mount Holyoke College.
Czitrom will discuss Currier & Ives in the larger context of media development in the 19th and 20th centuries. He will explore the lithography firm's connections to "penny press" newspapers, cheap publishing, and emerging popular entertainments such as minstrelsy and vaudeville. He will also describe the influence of Currier & Ives in the 19th century as part of the growing power of New York City to create American popular culture and project it around the nation and the world. In addition to achieving widespread popularity, Currier & Ives attracted criticism from the cultural elite, anticipating more than a century of critiques that "blame" new mass media for cultural and political problems. Finally, Czitrom will discuss the rise of photography and motion pictures, which helped make cheap lithography obsolete. To illustrate this, he'll show some striking images from Jacob Riis, the 19th-century reformer and photography pioneer whose images from his book, How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York, can be thought of as the "anti-Currier & Ives." Daniel Czitrom has written extensively on the history of American mass media and popular culture, as well as the history of New York City. His books include Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan; Out of Many: A History of the American People, currently the number-one selling college textbook for U.S. history; and the forthcoming Rediscovering Jacob Riis. He has also co-authored two historical dramas and been on-camera commentator and historical advisor for several history series produced by PBS. A question and answer period will follow the lecture, and coffee and cookies will be served. The lecture series is co-sponsored by the American Historical Print Collectors Society and is funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.