Pages Navigation Menu

From the Collection: Portrait and ‘Selfies’

Did you know? Selfies are not as modern as they might appear to be. People have been creating ‘selfies’ for centuries, known better as portraits or self-portraits.

Portrait of James G. Spann, Circa 1780-1800. South Carolina House Representative 1814-1818, and a colonel state militia.

Before photography and film, portraits provided a way to record a person’s image. Portraits are often displayed in museums or galleries as art, but that does not qualify them only as art. They also give a glimpse into the lives of the artists and the subjects of their portraits – just as selfies capture people at precise moments in time today. Of course, a portrait in the 1800s took more time to produce than a modern selfie, but both capture individual expression and have unique stories.

Portrait of Mary Bryce Young, Circa.1835. An early member of the First Presbyterian Church.

These “selfie” portraits from the museum’s art collection have recently been inventoried and digitized by the museum staff, thanks to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America grant program.

Portrait of Bessie Gibbes Montgomery, Circa 1910. Mother of Walter Scott Montgomery, a prominent South Carolinian innovator.

This Collections Stewardship project is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America grant program. Thanks to IMLS, the museum will be able to inventory its art collection, capture high-quality digital images of each piece, and update records in our new collections management system.

Portrait of Lester Bates Sr, Circa.1994 Former mayor of Columbia, SC.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.