Ithaca, NY—The Johnson Museum has endowed a new curatorial position, the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography, honoring the generosity of Gary Davis ’76, Chair of the Museum Advisory Council, and his wife, Ellen. Once hired, this new curator will develop a comprehensive teaching and research program from the Johnson’s strong permanent collection of photography. While the study and exhibition of photographs has been an important component of the Museum’s curatorial mission from the time of our founding, this new position will provide a full-time curator dedicated to broadening our impact and voice in this area.

Because almost half of the nearly 325 Cornell University courses that visited the Museum last year studied works from our photography collection, this new curator will have a primary responsibility to continue to integrate photography into all facets of a Cornell education. Each semester, the Rona Hollander Citrin ’80 and Jeffrey Citrin Photography Center is filled to capacity with faculty and students who come to examine photographs not on view elsewhere in the Museum. Positioned in close proximity to several temporary exhibition galleries including the Picket Family Video Gallery, this “smart” classroom encourages close looking and engaged dialogue. 

The new curatorship is the centerpiece of the Museum’s photography initiative, a multiyear, interdisciplinary approach to presenting audiences with experiences that range from the earliest moments of photography to work being made today. Related projects include providing access to the entire collection of more than nine thousand photographs online, improving conservation and storage facilities, offering student internships, initiating annual symposia, and presenting public programs dedicated to photography. 

Guiding this initiative is a group of Cornellians knowledgeable and passionate about photography, led by Museum Advisory Council members Merry Foresta MA ’81, the first curator of photography at the Smithsonian Institution and the founding director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, and Andy Grundberg ’69, former photography critic for the New York Times and one of the most significant voices in art criticism of his generation. Among the goals of this group is to identify potential partnerships with other institutions and to set a long-range strategy about how the Museum chooses to collect, exhibit, and interpret the medium. 

We thank Gary and Ellen Davis for their visionary contribution to helping the Museum deepen scholarship in the field of photography and building on the collection’s existing strengths. We look forward to updating our audiences as this initiative takes shape over the coming years.