UC Santa Cruz has received a gift of an extraordinary archive of photographs documenting the people, landscape, and politics of California in the mid-20th century.
Donated by The Marin Community Foundation, The Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch Collection is the largest single gift in the campus’s history, with an estimated value of $32 million.
The gift comprises over 12,000 photographic prints, 25,000 negatives, and thousands of transparencies created by photographer Pirkle Jones over the course of his career, as well as prints and negatives by his wife and partner, Ruth-Marion Baruch, plus a selection of prints by such colleagues and collaborators as Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston,Ansel Adams, and Minor White.
“These images tell the story of California at a time of tremendous social change. The collection is an extraordinary resource for scholars, students, and ultimately the public,” said Chancellor George Blumenthal, who met Jones during a campus visit. “He was a free spirit, a pioneer of photography. It’s gratifying that he wanted his collection here.”
The work of Jones (1914-2009) and Baruch (1922-1997) has been exhibited at museums throughout the country, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Some of their best known photographic series include Berryessa Valley (1956), Haight Ashbury (during the Summer of Love, 1967), Black Panthers (1968), and Gate Five in Sausalito (1969-765). The gift includes the transfer of all intellectual rights to their work.
How a UC Santa Cruz photo workshop started it all
Jones became acquainted with UC Santa Cruz in 1969, when he served as a teacher at a workshop held on campus by legendary photographer Ansel Adams.
“I was extremely pleased with the beauty of the campus,” Jones said in a 2003 interview. “And the mood and the attitude there was something that I had never seen before. It is one of the most unique universities anywhere.”
The Panther series of photographs came about in 1968 when his wife was introduced to Kathleen Cleaver, wife of Black Panther party leader Eldridge Cleaver. Given unprecedented access to the inner circle of the Black Panthers, Jones and Baruch took photographs from July through October of that year in an effort to create a better understanding of the controversial organization that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once called “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.”
“Ruth had made contact with the Black Panthers — Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver,” Jones recalled. “We would bring stacks of prints to them every week for use in their newspaper and for whatever else they wanted them for. At the time, everything in the press was negative and always out for shock value.”
An exhibition of these photographs at San Francisco’s de Young Museum in 1968 drew more than 100,000 people despite nearly being canceled due to unfavorable press.
“The de Young exhibit was one of the most important events in my life,” Jones said. “The energy we put into it–I’m amazed that we put it together in such a short time. It was a great opportunity.”
The collection will be housed in McHenry Library’s Special Collections, where it will complement a smaller Jones/Baruch archive given to UC Santa Cruz in 2003. It joins a number of other exceptional photographs already held in the Library, including works by some of the West’s most distinguished photographers such as Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Victor Jorgensen, Erik Lauritzen, and Morley Baer.
“This gift is the result of a lot of effort on the part of three heads of Special Collections, two library development officers, three University Librarians and two chancellors,” noted University Librarian Elizabeth Cowell. “It also reflects the hard work of multiple special collections staff who have worked to make the current collection accessible. We can be very proud of this collaborative and sustained effort.”
The new collection was just moved from storage in San Francisco to McHenry Library at the end of September. It filled three 24-foot trucks with more than 900 boxes of materials, as well as hundreds of framed items.
Elisabeth Remak-Honnef, head of Special Collections and Archives at UC Santa Cruz, said that it will take at least two years for a project archivist, assisted by skilled graduate students, to process the collection. “Our goal is to provide access to the collection as quickly and accurately as possible,” she said. “We will address research and loan requests as best we can while processing the collection.”
“We already have plans for exhibits at McHenry devoted to the Black Panthers in November of 2016 and The Summer of Love in 2017, plus traveling exhibits for 2018,” she added. “It’s going to be a very busy couple of years!”
Remak-Honnef noted that UC Santa Cruz has just loaned a number of prints from the collection to theOakland Museum for their upcoming Black Panther show which opens on October 8. The Library also plans to loan items to the de Young Museum in San Francisco for their upcoming Summer of Love exhibition.
“The stories Pirkle and Ruth-Marion captured from the 1940s through the 1970s are just as relevant today as when they were created,” she observed. “We are grappling with the same issues of social, political and environmental justice. People are eager to engage with these issues, and appreciation for such beautiful photographs is timeless.”
Note: A selection of framed photos from the The Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch Collection will be on display at the Founders Celebration at UC Santa Cruz on October 22.