Ansel Adams exhibition draws record attendance for Booth museum in 2010
by Marie Nesmith
Jan 16, 2011 | 3037 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fred King with the Booth Western Art Museum’s security team turns on a video documentary of Ansel Adams’ life that visitors can view along with an exhibit of the late photographer’s work. The Ansel Adams exhibition helped raise the Booth’s visitor count to 48,089 in 2010, the highest annual attendance since the museum opened in 2003. 
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Fred King with the Booth Western Art Museum’s security team turns on a video documentary of Ansel Adams’ life that visitors can view along with an exhibit of the late photographer’s work. The Ansel Adams exhibition helped raise the Booth’s visitor count to 48,089 in 2010, the highest annual attendance since the museum opened in 2003. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Due to the popularity of "Ansel Adams: A Legacy," the Booth Western Art Museum is extending the majority of the exhibition's images through March 13.

"[The exhibition is] broken up into two rooms," Booth Executive Director Seth Hopkins said. "There's one large room that has about 90 photographs and then a smaller one that has about 40. The smaller room, we have to close on the published close date of Feb. 20, but the larger room we're going to leave open through the Cowboy Gathering, which ends on March 13.

"We have another exhibit that's going into the smaller of the two galleries so we have to take down that portion of the exhibit. So if people want to see the exhibition [in its entirety] with all 130 images, they need to come before Feb. 20. If for some reason they can't do that, through [March] 13 two-thirds of the exhibit will still be on view. ... [Since] it's been so popular, we decided we really wanted to do that and give people as long as possible to see it. Even if they are missing a third, it's still a great exhibition. To see 90 of his best photographs is still well worth coming to see."

Open since Sept. 25, the collection provides guests an immersive and intimate look into the late American photographer's career. Known for his groundbreaking printing techniques and landscapes of the West, Adams selected a wide range of subject matter for "A Legacy." The images, which range from landscapes and still lifes to portraits and cityscapes, showcase more than 100 original black-and-white photographs that Adams captured from the 1920s to 1980s. Hand printed by Adams in his California darkroom, the photographs are displayed in the size that he intended for them to be viewed.

To help enhance the exhibit, the Booth also is incorporating various educational components into the offering, such as a video of Adams, a darkroom replica and a baby grand Steinway piano, representing his musical talents.

"It's really been an overwhelming response," Hopkins said, crediting the exhibit for helping the Booth set a visitation record in 2010 with 48,089 patrons. "It's by far been the most popular exhibit that we have ever had at the Booth museum. The numbers are kind of off the charts. For the Ansel Adams exhibit itself, we've had well over 20,000 people in just a little over three months. That's what we normally get in half a year [and] we've had [it] in a quarter because of that exhibition. ... [The exhibition appeals to people] I think first and foremost [because] it's a household name. It's one of the most recognizable artists' names in the world.

"So it immediately has some familiarity with people. A number of people I've talked to have said, 'Oh, I always had an Ansel Adams poster in my dorm room when I was in college' or 'When I first got my own place I had an Ansel Adams poster or print in my first apartment.' So I think his imagery is very approachable. A lot of people are familiar with it. They have fond memories of it and then I think his subject matter is pretty universal, the landscape of America, particularly his work in the national parks [of] Yosemite and The Tetons and other national parks. It's something that just lingers with people and they remember it and they are excited to go and see it again."

From the number of images to the intimate size they were printed, Hopkins said there are several aspects that factor into "A Legacy" being a unique representation of Adams' work.

"This is 130 photographs by Ansel Adams, so it's the largest exhibition that's ever been shown in the South. But it is also the fact that he hand printed and hand selected every image that's in the show," Hopkins said. "We know that because he gave this group of photographs to a group he was involved with called The Friends of Photography and he meant for this collection to represent his legacy through that group. So we know that he personally printed and selected each of these images to be included in this collection. No other exhibit that I'm aware of that's ever been out there has that.

"[The photographs are] still a good size," he said, adding the images' sizes average 20 inches by 30 inches. "They're comfortable for viewing but there were galleries and there were some museum exhibitions done both during Adams' lifetime and later where they blew up some of these images to be wall mural size. He really never intended that. Some of those images, when you get them too big lose a bit of their sharpness. So seeing them at this size, and again as he intended because he hand printed each one of them, you're really viewing them in the scale he thought they best carried the impact he wanted them to have."

Like Hopkins, Tara Currier -- the museum's director of marketing -- agrees that the Adams exhibition has attributed to the Booth's increase in visitation and membership since late September.

"We're really getting a lot more people from the Atlanta area, inside the perimeter, who are coming up," Currier said. "As soon as they come in the door, it's 'Where is Ansel Adams?' which has just been wonderful. So they're seeing that great exhibit and then at the same time they're realizing like 'Wow, look at [what] the rest of the museum has to offer.' So our membership has increased. We're at the highest membership for the museum that we've ever had. I think we're approaching 1,200, which is huge for us. You go up to the galleries, either one, and many times they are packed. There's people standing in front of every single photograph almost.

"We do contribute a great deal of [our rise in membership] to the Ansel Adams exhibit, that people are coming in for the first time or maybe even they've been before and they see the quality of this Ansel Adams exhibit and of course the great educational components that were added to it, such as the darkroom replica and the walk-in [camera] structure with the video about Ansel Adams. It's not just that it's a great exhibit. It's that our staff really put a lot of time and effort into making it the best that it could be in getting that player piano to represent his earlier career as a concert pianist. It's not just hanging pictures on the wall. We really want it to be an experience for the visitors and I think people have really appreciated the extra thought that was put into the exhibit."

For more information about "Ansel Adams: A Legacy" and related programs, call the Booth at 770-387-1300 or visit On Thursday, Kevin Nickell -- a former staff photographer for the Ansel Adams Gallery at Yosemite National Park -- will deliver a lecture in the Booth Theatre at 7 p.m. His black-and-white images will be featured in the exhibit "Kevin Nickell: Into the Fog!" through April 10 in the Borderlands Gallery.

Located at 501 Museum Drive in Cartersville, the 120,000-square-foot museum opened in 2003 and became a Smithsonian affiliate in 2006. Averaging 40,000 patrons per year, the Booth is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.