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Islands of the Blest – at the Mercantile Library


  • Mercantile Library the 11th Floor 414 Walnut Street Cincinnati, OH, 45202 United States (map)

A collaboration between the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Mercantile Library.

Dorothea Lange, Boundary County, Idaho, 1939. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Dorothea Lange, Boundary County, Idaho, 1939. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The photographs in Islands of the Blest depict various places in the American West. They were taken over a one-hundred-year period, from the 1870s through the 1970s. The photographers presented range from the completely unknown to some of America’s most distinguished practitioners of the medium, including Timothy H. O’Sullivan and Dorothea Lange. All images were sourced from digital public archives, such as the Library of Congress and the United States Geological Survey Library, and remain readily available to download.

Artist Bryan Schutmaat and art historian Ashlyn Davis selected the pictures with an eye toward telling a history of the exploration, settlement and industrialization of the West. They worked with Curator of Photography Brian Sholis to create the sequence presented at the Mercantile Library. It is a poetic chronology of a region that retains its mythical status in the American imagination.

Exhibition open to the public: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–3 p.m.