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Pictures and Music

Posted on October 11, 2012 by in The OFI Blog

Kenneth Hartvigsen

Kenneth Hartvigsen is currently a fellow doing research at the American History museum – he writes about some of the cool stuff he’s studying …

As a PhD candidate in Art History at Boston University, I have long been engaged with the intersection of the visual arts and music. When writing a seminar paper on visual culture of the Civil War, I discovered the Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music, at the Archive Center of the National Museum of American History , and immediately saw potential for a dynamic interdisciplinary investigation.

As a predoctoral fellow, I have the opportunity to write my dissertation at the Smithsonian, unpacking layers of signification embedded in cover illustrations on American popular music from the Civil War to World War I, by examining various topics from American social and cultural history, including the picturing of racial otherness after the Civil War, and visual constructions and transgressions of Victorian gender roles.

By uncovering the multiple systems of image-making in popular song,  I will recover sheet music illustration as a vibrant part of American visual culture and restore lost memories of America’s visual romance with popular music.