In 2010 the International Center of Photography in New York acquired the Barbara Levine Collection of seventy-nine early vernacular photograph albums dating from 1887 to 1938. Focusing on home and family life in the United States as well as travel abroad, it complements the museum’s rich holdings of vernacular photographs, especially its collection of African American family photo albums from the early twentieth-century. As a result of acquiring the Barbara Levine Collection, ICP will have the largest and most comprehensive array of photo albums in the country. This purchase was made by the ICP Acquisitions Committee in honor of Willis E. Hartshorn, the center’s director.
The extensive collection was assembled over decades by Barbara Levine, an artist, collector, and curator currently living in Houston, Texas and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Ms. Levine's own work as a photographer and collage artist informed her selection of albums. The collection makes the argument that early albums are works of art, carefully edited, compiled, and designed to express the creativity of their mostly female creators. They also trace the transformation of photography in its early years from studio portraiture to pictorialism and modernism.
Selections from Levine’s collection were highlighted in two publications: Around the World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) and Snapshot Chronicles: Inventing the American Photo Album (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006).