You are about to enter the main exhibition of The Mirror of Race Project.
The exhibition displays digital scans of the very earliest American photographs, from the 1840s to the late 1800s. We believe that these early photographs have the power to displace us from our usual ways of seeing and provoke us into reflection and conversation about the meaning of race.
Unlike most museum exhibits, this one will not provide you with an immediate explanation of what you are seeing. Instead, we invite you as the viewer first to consider what you think you see before being told what you see. Then, you may click through to deepening layers of explanation and confront your impression with what we know about the image.
First is Basic Information. This will give what traditional captions provide, the basic data available about the image, such as the maker, the subject, and the date made.
Next is Factual Commentary, which will tell you everything known about the photograph. In some cases, this is very little.
Finally, there is Interpretive Commentary. This will raise questions about what the image means, how to understand it in a broader context, and in some cases provide links to further discussion.