The Yosemite Valley

Abigail Guay here – the new Collections Access and Outreach Manager. This is my first Hankblog post. You will be hearing from me whenever something in the world reminds me of something in the Henry’s collections and/or whenever something in the Henry’s collections reminds me of something in the world. I am transmitting from the Reed Collections Study Center, which is open to the public by appointment, Tues-Fri, 9 AM-5 PM.

Ken Burns, with Dayton Dunkin, has produced another transfixing documentary series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. It debuted on PBS stations nationwide last Sunday and will continue through the end of the week. The six-part series looks at the evolution of the national park/landmark system and the National Park Service, digging into the political, commercial, and philosophical motivations driving (and stalling) the creation of what has become a uniquely American public resource.

The Park Service is an amazing and long-legged entity that administers the national parks and wetlands and shorelines, as well as dozens of historic sites, including the White House and a handful of historic boats (among a few more obvious things) in Washington State.

The Yosemite Valley was the first parcel of land set aside as a public resource, and with Yellowstone, is the focus of the opening episode of the series.  PBS viewers might recognize this c. 1870s photograph by Carleton E. Watkins of the Big Tree Room in Barnard’s Hotel.

Carleton E. Watkins, 2655 Yosemite, Cal. - the big tree room in Barnard's Hotel, c. 1870s

This albumen print is part of the Henry’s Monsen Study Collection of Photography, a gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen. See eleven other photographs of Yosemite from the Monsen Collection (plus a fantastic stereograph purchased by the museum) by entering the search term “Yosemite” into the Henry’s online collections search.

A contemporary experience that offers the same charming and  somewhat surreal insertion of the landscape into your rented room can be found here.

Photograph: Carleton E. Watkins, 2655-Yosemite, Cal – the big tree room in Barnard’s Hotel, c. 1870s (printed after 1875). Henry Art Gallery, Monsen Study Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen.

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