The Museum of Fine Arts has scheduled Perspectives on America, a three-part Sunday afternoon lecture series which will explore what Currier & Ives prints reveal about American history and the role they played as the precursor to the journalistic phenomena we now refer to as the "mass media."
The first program in the series will be held on February 4, at 2 p.m., when Steven H. Miller, executive director of the Morris Museum, Morristown, N.J., will present Currier & Ives: Prints for America. The talk is free with museum admission. Miller will discuss the how the proliferation of images we see today in newspapers, magazines, on television, in advertisements, and on the walls of our homes and offices began in the 19th century as a result of new technology and the new phenomenon of making prints for personal consumption. Currier & Ives was the leader in this area, producing tens of thousands of prints covering a wide range of subjects. In essence, the company was the television of its time. Miller will show the full spectrum of Currier & Ives prints, ranging from the firm's most popular and elegant images, to its work-a-day productions, to less well-known pictures. The firm's marketing success reflects an urban point of view and its understanding of an audience that responded well to prevailing mainstream middle class American values. Currier & Ives knew its audience and how to respond to its interests. An expert on Currier & Ives prints, Miller worked for sixteen years in various curatorial capacities, concluding as senior curator, with the Department of Paintings, Prints and Photographs of the Museum of the City of New York, which owns one of the largest collections of Currier & Ives prints in the country. Miller conducted research on the collection, organized several exhibitions, and continues to speak on the subject of Currier & Ives. 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. Future programs in the series are: February 18 – Currier & Ives' Greatest Hits by Robert K, Newman, proprietor of The Old Print Shop in New York City. February 25 – Currier & Ives and the Emergence of American Mass Media by Daniel Czitrom, professor of history at Mount Holyoke College.