Peter P. Blank announces retirement as Photography Curator for Special Collections with the Stanford Libraries

February 2, 2021
Robert G Trujillo
Peter Blank

After a combined 21+ years of service with the Stanford Libraries, Peter P. Blank has announced that he will retire May 31, 2021. Peter was appointed to a three-year term appointment as the Libraries first Photography Curator in the Special Collections Department of Stanford Libraries on June 1, 2018. Prior to working in Special Collections, Peter served in a variety of professional positions in Stanford’s Art & Architecture Library, including as Head Librarian. He worked two terms with Stanford Libraries, first from 1993 to 1996 and more recently since 2005.

In his latest role as Photography Curator Peter spearheaded the Stanford Libraries Photography Initiative, a new program which redefined the collection development program for photographs in Special Collections and expanded outreach efforts in support of teaching and research. The success of the Photography Initiative during this three year period has led to a decision to create a permanent Photography Curator position within Special Collections. The posting is now listed. Over 14,000 photographic works were acquired as part of the Photography Initiative during Peter’s tenure as Photograph Curator, mostly as donations to the program. Drawing on his years of experience in librarianship and his deep knowledge of photography, Peter has been a creative and effective curator, working collaboratively within the Stanford community, especially with other Stanford Libraries’ curators and bibliographers, the staff of the Cantor Arts Center and the Anderson Collection, and faculty from various departments. Most importantly, he has developed close relationships for the Photography Initiative outside of the University with other photography professionals and institutions internationally.

Peter Blank meeting with students

Peter made significant progress in developing and refining the necessary protocols for the acquisition, processing and cataloging of photography materials in the Libraries. Two major archives were committed to the Libraries and substantial headway has been made in making these collections available for research: the Arthur Tress and Mark Ruwedel photography archives, with several other archives in queue under consideration. The acquisition of complete archives will continue to be the focus of the Photography Initiative. Noteworthy smaller collections acquired by Peter include works by Linda Connor, Milton Rogovin, Lewis Morley and Michael Bishop, as well as smaller portfolios and photo-based artists’ books by Barbara Bosworth, Janelle Lynch, Lucas Foglia, and others. Annual acquisitions were added to the Nazraeli Press publication archive at Stanford, which was initiated by Peter and Chris Pichler, publisher of Nazraeli Press, a prominent photography publisher. Hundreds and hundreds of students from majors across Stanford’s academic spectrum have been exposed to these works via course viewings, both in-person and online. Peter also created Spotlight digital exhibitions for Arthur Tress and Carleton Watkins, with additional Spotlights in the works for Mark Ruwedel, Gyorgy Kepes, and Laura Aguilar. A physical exhibition in Green Library of Ruwedel’s photo-based artists’ books in conversation with other materials from the Libraries is scheduled for late May to August 2021.

While Head Librarian of the Art & Architecture Library he substantially assisted with the design of the Uta and Bill Bowes Art & Architecture Library in Stanford’s new Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed McMurtry Building. As Head Art Librarian he guided the Libraries’ acquisition of the archives of Carolee Schneemann, Helen and Newton Harrison, Gyorgy Kepes, and New Langton Arts. He developed notable collections of rare materials for the Art Library’s ’s Locked Stacks collection, especially in the areas of photography, artists’ books, avant-garde journals and literature, illuminated manuscript facsimiles, and antiquarian materials. During his 21+ years with Stanford Libraries, Peter has also guided the development of an outstanding research collection for the study of art, architecture, design, and photography, acquiring important monographs, exhibition catalogs, and journal titles.

Peter received his B.A. from Indiana University in Fine Arts Studio (photography and sculpture), where he studied with Henry Holmes Smith and Reg Heron, his M.L.S. from Indiana University (specializing in art librarianship), an M.A. in Art History from Hunter College, City University of New York, and he completed additional graduate work (ABD) in the Ph.D. program in Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, specializing in American photography. Peter has an extensive record of teaching, exhibition, and publication related to art history and photography. He began his career at the Robert Goldwater Library in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, came to Stanford to serve as Alex Ross’s Assistant Art Librarian in Stanford’s Cummings Art Library, departed for six years to work at The Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, and then returned to Stanford.

A familiar figure in the Stanford Libraries and around campus, Peter has been a valued Art & Architecture Library and Special Collections colleague for the entire campus community. His achievements are considerable and he will be missed by his many friends in the University. Please join me in congratulating Peter for his most excellent service on behalf of Stanford Libraries.