Sandweiss, Martha A(nn) 1954-

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SANDWEISS, Martha A(nn) 1954-

(Louise Todd)

PERSONAL: Born March 29, 1954, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Jerome Wesley and Marilyn Joy (Glik) Sandweiss; married; children: two. Education: Radcliffe College, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1975; Yale University, M.A., 1977, M.Phil., 1979, Ph.D., 1985.

ADDRESSES: Home—90 Arnold Rd., Pelham, MA 01002. Office—101 Morgan Hall, Amherst College, P.O. Box 2241, Amherst, MA 01002-5000. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, research fellow, 1975-76; Strawbery Banke, Inc., Portsmouth, NH, National Trust for Historic Preservation intern, 1977; Yale-New Haven Teachers' Institute, New Haven, CT, instructor in colonial American material culture, 1978; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX, curator of photographs, 1979-86, adjunct curator, 1987-89; Amherst College, Amherst, MA, director of Mead Art Museum, 1989-97, and adjunct associate professor of fine arts and American studies, 1989-94, associate professor of American studies, 1994-97, associate professor of American studies and history, 1997—. Yale University, fellow of Center for American Art and Material Culture, 1977-79; Connecticut River Foundation at Steamboat Dock, museum planning consultant, 1978; Princeton University, Eberhard L. Faber Memorial Lecturer, 1988; Washington University, St. Louis, MO, Hortense Lewin Visiting Scholar Lecturer, 1989; lecturer at universities and museums, including University of Arizona, Bowdoin College, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and Utah State University; consultant to J. Paul Getty Trust and Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History and Technology.

MEMBER: Western History Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Humanities and Smithsonian Institution fellow, 1975-76; Beinecke Library fellow, Yale University, 1987-88; Huntington Library fellow, 1988; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1988; George Wittenborn outstanding art book of 1987, Art Libraries Society of North America, 1988, for Laura Gilpin: An Enduring Grace; Eyewitness to War received the Vasari Award for outstanding art book from the Dallas Museum of Art, 1989, and was named Outstanding Publication of 1990 by the American Historical Print Collectors Society; American Council of Learned Societies fellow, 1996-97; Weatherhead Fellowship, 2000; the film Laura Gilpin received the Wilder Award of the Texas Association of Museums, CINE Golden Eagle from the Council on International Nontheatrical Events, and the Sinking Creek Film Festival award; Caughey Award, Western History Association, for The Oxford History of the American West; Ray Allen Billington Prize, Organization of American Historians, 2003, for Print the Legend: Photography and the American West.


Pictures from an Expedition: Early Views of the American West (catalogue), Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT), 1978.

Carlotta Corpron: Designer with Light, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1980.

(With others) Carlotta Corpron: Designer with Light (documentary videotape), Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth, TX), 1980.

Masterworks of American Photography: The Amon Carter Museum Collection, Oxmoor House (Birmingham, AL), 1982.

(Editor, with Roy Flukinger and Anne W. Tucker) Historic Texas: A Photographic Portrait, Texas Monthly Press (Austin, TX), 1985.

(Editor, with Roy Flukinger and Anne W. Tucker) Contemporary Texas: A Photographic Portrait, Texas Monthly Press (Austin, TX), 1985.

Laura Gilpin: An Enduring Grace (book and documentary film), Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth, TX), 1986.

(Picture editor and author of foreword) Eliot Porter, New York Graphic Society, 1987.

(Editor and author of introduction) Elizabeth W. Forster and Laura Gilpin, Denizens of the Desert, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1988.

(With Patrick Stewart and Ben W. Huseman) Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1989.

(Editor and contributor) Photography in Nineteenth-Century America, Abrams (Fort Worth, TX), 1991.

(Editor, with Clyde A. Milner II and Carol A. O'Connor) The Oxford History of the American West, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Print the Legend: Photography and the American West, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.

Contributor to books, including The Dictionary of Art; Discovered Lands, Invented Pasts: Transforming Visions of the American West, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1993; Perpetual Mirage: Photographic Narratives of the Desert West, organized by May Castleberry, Whitney Museum of Art (New York, NY), 1996; and Language As Object: Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Art, edited by Susan Danly, Mead Art Museum (Amherst, MA), 1997. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Artspace, Orion Nature Quarterly, Connoisseur, and National Wildlife; contributor to Atlantic Monthly under pseudonym Louise Todd. Member of editorial board, Western Historical Quarterly, 1989—.

SIDELIGHTS: A professor of American studies and history, Martha A. Sandweiss is an authority on the subject of photography in American history and has a special interest in its use in the West. She has experience as a museum curator and director, and she has published numerous books as an author and editor. These include a biography of photographer Laura Gilpin, photographic catalogs, writings about exhibitions, The Oxford History of the American West, and a study of how photography helped shape popular ideas about the West titled Print the Legend: Photography and the American West.

Laura Gilpin: An Enduring Grace grew out of Sandweiss's doctoral dissertation at Yale University and marked an exhibit at Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum in 1986. Writing for the American Quarterly, Lee Clark Mitchell hailed the combination as "a double triumph: a biography of one of our best but least-known photographers that will remain definitive for decades, and an exhibition that has almost single-handedly generated popular interest in Gilpin." A native of Colorado, Gilpin was a contemporary of Ansel Adams and Paul Strand who never earned much critical or financial reward for her photographs of landscapes and Navajo life. Sandweiss considers how Gilpin's landscapes differs from those photographed by men and shows how her development as an artist actually benefited from a lack of professional accomplishment.

As editor of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America, Sandweiss collected six essays on the early social and cultural impact of photography in America, from its introduction in the 1840s with the daguerreo-type and culminating with the creation of the snapshot camera decades later. Among the topics considered are photographic subjects, the audiences for photography, how Americans responded to photos of the Civil War, and professional and amateur associations. A Publishers Weekly critic called the essays "vivid" and judged the book to be "original, comprehensive and visually satisfying."

Sandweiss helped edit the Oxford History of the American West, which presents the range of issues being studied by contemporary historians. A revision of Western history that began in the 1950s has responded to myths celebrating the conquests of white men on the Western frontier and expanded the focus of Western studies to include other races, sexes, and events, as well as diverse political, environmental, social, cultural, and economic issues. The book is "an acknowledgement of how much the history of the West has changed," according to Julie Roy Jeffrey, who wrote in the Historical Journal that "given the range of the essays … and the useful discussion of secondary resources that follow each, this volume will not only be of interest to the general reader, but to specialists." Raymond Starr described the reference work in the Journal of San Diego History as "a quality book, a significant book, and an entertaining one. It belongs in the library of anyone serious about the American West." In School Library Journal, Judy McAloon said it was "a fine single source for research on the historical and contemporary West as myth, as an attitude, as a place, and as a culture."

The impact of photography on how Americans have perceived the West is the subject of Sandweiss's more recent work Print the Legend: Photography and the American West. Here, the author explains how the work of frontier photographers affected Americans in the nineteenth century by showing them images of dramatic landscapes, native peoples, the California Gold Rush, and the Spanish-American War. The myth of the American West was bolstered by these photographs, and Sandweiss shows what kinds of information they document and how they can fail to reflect other ideas. A Publishers Weekly writer advised that this was "more a scholarly tome than … coffee-table fixture" and that this "careful and thoughtful book will appeal less to students of photography than to those interested in the place and time, and how our image of it came together." Library Journal contributor Michael Dashkin remarked that Sandweiss "shows photographs to be problematic evidence but skillfully argues on behalf of their playing a more central role in historical research." The author shows "nonpareil knowledge of photographs of the nineteenth-century American West," according to Richard W. Etulain in the Oregon Historical Quarterly; he said the book was "a feast of insights….The author continually sees photographs in their illuminating cultural and technological contexts."



American Quarterly, winter, 1986, Lee Clark Mitchell, "Reading Images: Southwestern Test Cases," pp. 872-878.

Choice, April, 2003, P. D. Thomas, review of Print the Legend: Photography and the American West, p. 1359.

Historical Journal, December, 1995, Julie Roy Jeffrey, review of The Oxford History of the American West, pp. 1057-1065.

Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Michael Dashkin, review of Print the Legend, p. 135.

Oregon Historical Quarterly, fall, 2003, Richard W. Etulain, review of Print the Legend, p. 448.

Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1991, review of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America, p. 70; July 15, 2002, review of Print the Legend, p. 66.

School Library Journal, January, 1995, Judy McAloon, review of The Oxford History of the American West, p. 148.

Washington Post Book World, December 3, 1989, p. 8.


Journal of San Diego History, (August 23, 2005) Raymond Starr, review of The Oxford History of the American West.*