Students curate ‘Paper Moon’ exhibit at Lyman Allyn museum

A new exhibit at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London takes guests on a pictorial tour of America’s love affair with souvenir portraits.

 “It’s only a Paper Moon: Souvenir Photography in America, 1870-1950” consists of nearly 500 postcards taken at carnivals, fairs and downtown arcades across the country at the turn of the 19th century.

 The exhibit draws from the private collection of Christopher B. Steiner, the Lucy C. McDannel '22 Professor of Art History & Anthropology, and will be on display through May 14.

“Souvenir photo portraits boomed soon after the invention of photography in the mid-19th century,” said Steiner, who is also director of the College’s Museum Studies Certificate Program. “The images were printed on penny postcards and were popular among travelers and tourists who would then ship the photos to family and friends.”

Among the decorated backdrops and playful props that were ubiquitous to the trend was the popular “paper moon,” which consisted of a large crescent moon cutout set to a starry backdrop.

Steiner worked with six students enrolled in his museum training course to curate and display the exhibit, which is supported by the Elizabeth McGuire and Anthony T. Enders Endowed Fund. The fund supports collaborative projects between Connecticut College and Lyman Allyn, which is adjacent to the campus. Two students, Sarah Potter ’19 and Grace Mennell ’19, are also enrolled in the museum studies program.

March 17, 2017