Ulrich Middeldorf and the Photothek

Ute Dercks

The figure of Ulrich Middeldorf, who was active in the Photothek in the years 1926–1935 and held the position of director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz from 1953 to 1968, is being analyzed in this methodological project, with a special focus on his card indexes.

When Ulrich Middeldorf left Florence in November 1935 to teach art history at the University of Chicago, he bequeathed the "Photo collection – the special pride of our Institute" (Arthur Haseloff, director 1932–1935) in a structure that has characterized the Photothek up to the present day. His influence on the growth of the archive itself was enormous, not only because of his personal donations, but also due to the relationship he fostered with one of the the main patrons of the collection, Luigi Vittorio Fossati Bellani. With his help Middeldorf systematically expanded the sections of the Photothek. After completing his studies in 1926 Middeldorf initially came to Florence on a scholarship. In the following years he turned the Photothek into a modern research instrument, by re-organizing the classification and the card indexes as the main finding aid. Of particular interest in this project is also Middeldorf's discontinued project of an "art historically organized catalog", in which artists are cataloged with biographical data, information on their sphere of activity and their teachers. Also, it included bibliographical references that allowed a closer connection with the library.

Ute Dercks: Ulrich Middeldorf Prior to Emigration - The Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (1928-1935)
In: Exiles and émigrés, libraries and image collections: the intellectual legacy, edited by v. Jaś Elsner and Clare Hills-Nova, Art Libraries Journal vol. 38, n. 4 (2013), pp. 29–36
Ute Dercks: "And because the use of the photographic device is impossible without a proper card catalog...." The Typological-Stylistic Arrangement and the Subject Cross-Reference Index of the KHI's Photothek between 1897 and the 1930s
In: Classifying content. Photographic collections and theories of thematic ordering, edited by v. Chiara Franceschini and Katia Mazzucco, Visual Resources, vol. 30, Issue 3, September 2014, pp. 181–200


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