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Carnegie Museum of Art receives $348,885 for Teenie Harris project

New Pittsburgh Courier
By Courier Newsroom
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded Carnegie Museum of Art $348,885 for ongoing work related to the museum’s Teenie Harris Archive.

The archive contains more than 80,000 black-and-white prints and negatives taken by photographer Teenie Harris between 1936 and 1975 that document daily events in the life of Pittsburgh’s African-American community. The funding will allow the museum to conserve, catalogue, digitize, and post images on the museum’s web site, and archivally store approximately 26,963 negatives as Phase II of the Teenie Harris Archive Project.

In addition, the Teenie Harris Archive has been chosen as a “We the People” project by the NEH. “We the People” is an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in U.S. history and culture that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.

“We are especially gratified that this worthy project has received critical funding through the NEH’s rigorous peer-review process; this support acknowledges the importance and value of the archive to scholars and the public,” says museum director Richard Armstrong.

“We thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for its help in preserving the works of one of the great masters of photography, not just for the people of Pittsburgh, but for anyone interested in the subjects captured by Teenie Harris,” says museum board chairman William E. Hunt.

Phase I and Phase II of the project are part of an overall plan to preserve the life’s work of Charles “Teenie” Harris, an African-American photojournalist who was a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh who worked for the Pittsburgh Courier. With support from the Heinz Family Fund, the museum was able to purchase the materials that make up the archive, now considered the largest and most complete portrait of African-American urban life in existence.

Additionally, this funding will enable the museum to continue its efforts to identify the people, places, and activities in the photographs.

CMA has an ongoing collaboration with the Courier placing ads that contain undocumented photos in the paper to solicit the community in identifying unknown individuals in Harris’ photographs.

Ultimately, the grant moves the museum closer to its goal of allowing access to the archive by its intended audiences-scholars and historians, teachers, students, media, publishers, museums and other organizations, and the general public.

“As the preeminent chronicler of African-American life in Western Pennsylvania for four decades, Teenie Harris produced an incredible archive of images, including many photographs documenting the pivotal figures and events in Pittsburgh’s Civil Rights Movement. It is critically important that his work be preserved and shared with future generations,” says Neil Barclay, president and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture and a member of the Teenie Harris Archive Advisory Committee.

“Already the August Wilson Center has made extensive use of the Teenie Harris collection in exhibitions, publications and signage, and as the inspiration for a world premiere dance work choreographed by Ronald K. Brown for Evidence Dance Company.”

In September 2006, Carnegie Museum of Art launched an online collection database on the museum’s web site, Today more than 27,000 Teenie Harris images are posted.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633