If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the latest collection of photographs to arrive at Lafayette College art galleries has a lot to say.
Bennett J. Goodman ’79 recently provided the college with an extensive collection of period photos capturing significant moments in civil rights history. Containing over 3,000 photographs, the collection is estimated at around $ 10 million.
The collection features a number of famous names in photojournalism, including Cornell Capa, whose photos document conditions at Attica Correctional Facility in the 1970s; Fred Jewell, who photographed moments from the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973; Joe Barrera, Jr., whose photos capture the Chicano movement and Jack Delano, photographer for the Farm Security Administration.
According to gallery director and curator of collections Rico Reyes, Goodman donated this collection to Lafayette to continue the legacy of the Kirby family and the establishment of the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights.
âThe gift itself is a generous act that kind of continues the legacy of what Kirby started with the Hall of Civil Rights and all of that civil rights artwork,â Reyes said. “The gift itself is a tribute to this ideal of civil rights and the notion of civil rights here in Lafayette.”
However, the donation intends to do more than simply honor the legacy of civil rights movements of the past. Reyes also hoped the collection would energize conversations about the current state of civil rights, as well as what it will look like in the future.
âI think our notion of civil rights was founded and fixed back then in the sixties. So going back and looking at those photographs, and looking through the sixties civil rights era, really energizes the conversation today, âReyes said. âBecause now we have a tangible historical document that we can look at, visit and study, which tells us about how we think about civil rights now, and perhaps how civil rights should evolve in the future. “
Lafayette plans to use photos from the collection to create exhibits for America250’s Lehigh Valley celebration in 2026, which will mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States. For the celebration, Lafayette will partner with organizations such as the Lafayette Historical Society and the Sigal Museum, as well as humanities academics from the Lehigh Valley.
In the near future, the Williams Center will host a show called âFocus IV,â a preliminary display of donation selections. Reyes is in conversation with the Kirby Hall Library to view the photos in the library itself, rather than just in the gallery. He is also working on an exhibition featuring photos from the collection which will begin at the end of the spring semester.
Reyes hopes the photo collection will inspire students to take more intentional photos of the events and movements taking place around them.
âIf more people are inspired to just document what’s going on around them, then I think we’ll have a much richer record of what really happened and better understand this moment right now. I, as an art teacher, really want to stress that you have a camera with you all the time, so be more intentional about how you use it, âReyes said.
Students interested in seeing some photos from the collection in person are invited to make an appointment with Reyes by emailing him at [emailÂ protected]