Contents and Arrangement

Series 3: Photography Props and Teaching Materials, 1912-2000 (mostly 1935-2000)

17 boxes

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This series primarily contains props and objects used by Ruth Bernhard for still life photography and teaching, along with some print and audio and visual materials related to her activities as a photography instructor. Some objects, such as the cow skull with embedded rosary pictured in Skull and Rosary (1945) and the Venus murex shell pictured in Venus Comb (1943) can be attributed to specific photographs. Others exemplify the sorts of props Bernhard often photographed and used in student instruction, including doll pieces, animal bones, various seed pods and other plant materials, found objects, and modern decor and kitchen equipment. Insight into Bernhard's use of these objects can be found in pages 87-90 of the draft of Ruth Bernhard: Between Art and Life, a biography written by Margaretta Mitchell in conjunction with the artist (See Box 7, Folder 8-9).

Encouraged by Minor White and other photographer friends, Ruth Bernhard began teaching photography classes in 1961, offering courses and print evaluation sessions from her home studio and later leading popular workshops on the photography of the nude around the country and internationally, including workshops held by Ansel Adams, John Sexton, and the University of California Extension Program. In her later life, after the 1976 poisoning accident left her unable to continue working as a photographer, teaching and lecturing superseded photography as Bernhard's primary activity and means of income.

Also present are some papers related to Bernhard's teaching activities, including essays on the teaching of art by Bernhard and others, hand-outs, inspirational quotes, paper signs for props, student essays, questionnaires, and assignments, as well as some publicity materials specifically related to workshops, including a group related to the John Sexton Photography Workshops in the 1990s. A small amount of slides used in teaching are included, as well as some cassette tapes and video tapes (VHS and 3/4 formats) documenting various lectures, workshops, and interviews related to teaching. Other teaching-related papers, filed by Ruth Bernhard and the Princeton University Art Museum can be found in Subseries 1A and 1B, respectively.

Some of the more fragile objects present in this series are wrapped in layers of tissue paper, archival polyester batting, and bubble wrap. Some small plaster pieces, bones, and other natural materials are also housed in compartments within artifact trays. Researchers are asked to take care when returning these materials to their boxes to preserve this arrangement.


Materials are grouped by format.

Collection History


Nothing was discarded or transferred in the processing of this collection.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in January - February, 2014. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in February - March, 2014, using item description provided by Emily McVeigh of the Princeton University Art Museum in 2013. Finding aid updated by Kelly Bolding in 2016

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright and literary rights for materials in this collection that were created by Ruth Bernhard are held by the Trustees of Princeton University. Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to The Trustees of Princeton University and researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of donor-created materials within the collection. For materials in the collection not created by the donor, or where the material is not an original, the copyright is likely not held by the University. In these instances, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Series 3: Photography Props and Teaching Materials; Ruth Bernhard Papers, C1468, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (rcpxm): Boxes 22, 34, 48, 67

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Related Materials

Ruth Bernhard's photographic archive is held by the Princeton University Art Museum. Her working library is available in the Rare Books Collection.

Margaretta K. Mitchell Working Files on Ruth Bernhard (C1591)