Working with large projects has always seemed for me a daunting task. This was especially true when I was first assigned to work with the Martin F. Schmidt Collection. What appeared most intimidating was that I would be cataloging a massive volume of printed material, from newspapers spreads to small pamphlets to large maps.
Donated in 2004, the collection contains 629 prints and took staff and volunteers several years to fully catalog for public access. As Martin F. Schmidt describes in his book Kentucky Illustrated: The First Hundred Years, the prints depict various early views of Kentucky history from as early as the late 1780s into the late 18th century. Schmidt collected these prints for over 50 years. When determining what prints to keep and publish he decided to select works that “felt the touch of the artist, architect, etcher, painter, engraver or lithographer before they were seen in publication” or works that predated photography as the dominate medium. Schmidt tried to make this as exhaustive a collection as possible. As a result this collection contains a wide variety of print materials depicting historical Kentucky, including public figures, decorative architecture, local business advertising, disasters, and the Civil War.
Working with the collection was very engaging. For instance, some days, I would have the opportunity read narratives about a tornado that sweep through Louisville. Other days I would work with a small photo-styled album of prints highlighting the significant architecture around Louisville. Working with collections like this creates an incredible experience.Be sure to check out the collection in the KHS Objects Catalog (www.history.ky.gov/objects). It shows an interesting perspective of the times and printing related to Kentucky’s early history. As Georgetown College professor Dr. Klotter, once commented about this collection, the prints “At one level they enlighten us; at another entertain” (Schmidt, Kentucky Illustrated: The First Hundred Years, 2).
--Devon Stivers, Collections Intern, Museum Collections & Exhibitions