Photographer Barbara Morgan is well-known for chronicling the development of modern dance from the 1930s to the ’50s. Her portfolio includes such luminaries as Erick Hawkins, Pearl Primus, Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham. Now 38 of her historic images are in the charge of the UMass Amherst College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
Morgan’s grandson Nils Morgan and his wife Kara Rillings Morgan donated the collection after discovering the link two UMass professors had to his grandmother’s work.
Nils Morgan, who had been seeking out universities to receive the photos, first approached professor Paul Dennis after learning that he had danced with the José Limón company. Limón’s image is prominent among Barbara Morgan’s work. Dennis forwarded that message to Peggy Schwartz, who, it turned out, had worked closely with Nils’ father Lloyd years earlier to exhibit Pearl Primus photos, some of which had never been seen before. Currently Schwartz and her husband Murray are co-authoring The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus.
Faculty will use the photos as part of a history of 20th century dance course and students can use the exhibit as a “teaching” gallery, much like the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. UMass’ dance department plans reconstructions of Primus and Doris Humphrey works for its December 2010 concert to go along with the exhibit. For more: www.umass.edu