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Judy Kirk
Assistant director, Mathers Museum

Last modified: Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Exhibit, book capture nation's vivid past through IU alum's early color photographs

Sept. 4, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- By the time he hung up his beloved Contax IIA camera in 1969, Indiana University graduate, part-time financial analyst and amateur photographer Charles Cushman had created a legacy.

Rodeo parade in Tucson, Arizona, 1940.

Rodeo parade in Tucson, Ariz., 1940.

Print-Quality Photo

Starting in 1938, the Poseyville, Ind., native had driven more than a half-million miles across the country, taking more than 14,000 vivid Kodachrome images that reveal an American landscape unencumbered by suburban development, interstate highways and urban renewal.

Donated to IU after his death in 1972, Cushman's work is believed to be the largest known body of early color photographs by a single photographer. Now, his images are the focus of "The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer's Journey Through Midcentury America" at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures/Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology. The exhibit will be on display through Dec. 21.

The free exhibit displays 48 of his images. Cushman's entire collection, including photographs from his visits to other countries, has been digitized and made available online courtesy of IU's Digital Library Program and IU Archives.

IU associate professor Eric Sandweiss, the Carmony Chair of IU's Department of History -- part of the College of Arts and Sciences -- and editor of Indiana Magazine of History, recently published a book about Cushman's work.

Lexington at DeKalb, Chicago, Illinois, 1949

Lexington at DeKalb, Chicago, 1949.

Print-Quality Photo

"The Day in Its Color: Charles Cushman's Photographic Journey Through a Vanishing America" (Oxford, 2012) features 150 color prints and tells the story of Cushman's constant travels and uncanny eye for everyday detail.

"IU is fortunate to house a collection that has begun to acquire international renown among historians, photography scholars and hobbyists," Sandweiss said. "But I think Charles Cushman would be especially pleased to see a sampling of his work hanging in the Mathers Museum, where students from his alma mater can connect directly with this Hoosier artist and see America -- for at least a short while -- through his eyes."

Sandweiss will lead a curator's tour of the exhibit at 2 p.m. Oct. 21. The event is free and open to the public.

Additionally, the institution will host "Capturing Bloomington," a Flickr site featuring images of Bloomington's past.

About the Mathers Museum/Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology
Founded in 1963, the Mathers Museum has more than 30,000 artifacts from around the world, with renowned collections of African and Native American cultures, Indiana history, Latin American cultures and musical instruments. The Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, founded in 1965 to promote study, preservation and education regarding the state of Indiana's rich archaeological heritage, holds nearly 12,000 archaeological collections, representing millions of artifacts from Indiana and the Midwest. Together, the merged collections, programs and research activities make the institution one of the top three university museums of world cultures and archaeology in the nation.

Located at 416 N. Indiana Ave., the institution is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.