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Matinee: The Keeneland Archives Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

22 May 2021

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 397th in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Keeneland Archives.

In this 1:34 video, Keeneland Library Director Becky Ryder introduces the library's photographic collection focused on Thoroughbred horse racing, whose Triple Crown we are in the midst of at the moment.

The Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, was won last Sunday by Rombauer after Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby on May 1. The Belmont Stakes, which is the final leg of the Triple Crown, will be run in June.

The Keeneland Library, established in 1939, has become one of the largest repositories of information on the Thoroughbred horse, housing almost 30,000 volumes of books and journals, one million photographic negatives, thousands of newspaper articles, as well as memorabilia, trophies, artifacts and equine art by prominent artists.

As Ryder explains, the Keeneland's photo collection begins in the 1890s with the John C. Hemment Photograph Collection. Hemment took over 5,000 photographs in the late 19th and early 20th century depicting New York City track and paddock scenes, horses and the social gatherings of prominent historic figures associated with Thoroughbred racing. Among his images are the only photographs of African-American jockeys in the early days of racing. Here's his 1891 photo of 15 jockeys at the Coney Island Jockey Club:

John C. Hemment. Fifteen Jockeys (1891).

Next she shows a 5x7 glass negative from the Charles Christian Cook Collection, just one of his 18,000 glass negatives. One of the first photographers to specialize in racing and track scenes, Cook photographed events on the East Coast in the first half of the 20th century. Here's his shot of 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation working out at Santa Anita:

Charles Christian Cook. Citation working out at Santa Anita.

The Bernard Stanley Morgan Photograph Collection of 200,000 items includes black-and-white acetate negatives of Thoroughbred races at several race tracks in New York and Florida; as well as Triple Crown events, United Hunts races and other Eastern steeplechase events from 1935 to 1961. Here's Morgan's 1937 photo of Seabiscuit with Pollard up:

Bernard Stanley Morgan. Seabiscuit with Pollard up (1937).

Finally Ryder shows us a color slide from the Katey Barrett Collection, which apparently isn't digitized yet. Barrett represents several firsts for the Keeneland. She's its first female photographer, the first color photographer and the first to document the West Coast. After 40 years, she's still shooting Santa Anita and still shooting film.

The video is the briefest of introductions so we've given you a few links to explore the featured collections further. But there are a few more photographic collectons to explore online at the Keeneland. And while you're there, don't miss the Keenland's six online exhibits.

They're free to browse while you're waiting for the horses to enter the starting gate for the Belmont.

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