Casey Riley

I am the Assistant Curator at the Boston Athenaeum and a consulting curator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. I'm an interdisciplinary scholar with expertise in American art, the history of photography, and the visual and material culture of the long nineteenth century. My book project, “Picturing a Museum: Photography and the Making of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum,” reveals the critical role of photography within Gardner’s work as a museum founder and collector of fine art. A chapter of my research appears in Elizabeth Edwards and Christopher Morton's edited collection Photographs, Museums, Collections: Between Art and Information (Bloomsbury, 2015); I am most recently a co-author of the Gardner Museum's forthcoming guidebook (Yale University Press, 2017). At the Boston Athenaeum and at the Gardner Museum, I am involved in the research and development of projects spanning the history and breadth of their remarkable collections.

From Page to Stage: Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Photograph Albums and the Development of her Museum, 1874-1924
(Dissertation, Boston University, 2015)

“From Page to Stage: Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Photograph Albums and the Development of her Museum, 1874-1924” traces the arc of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s professional development through her photographic and archival practices in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While Gardner’s museum in Boston is well known, she destroyed evidence pertinent to her curatorial agenda. To recover these methods, this project surveys Gardner’s involvement with photography through two of her earliest travel albums, all fifteen of her illustrated guest books, and five albums of the evolving galleries in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The process of photographic album making supported strategies of research, collection, installation, and preservation that Gardner would use as a patron and institutional leader. Gardner’s albums illuminate her actions not only as a collector of commercial photographs but also as a snapshot photographer and a commissioner of professional architectural photography in Boston. Her multivalent photographic practices reveal the ways in which she used albums and photography to realize her professional ambitions. Collecting, creating, commissioning, and exhibiting photographs were not sentimental pastimes for Gardner, but processes intrinsic to her activities as a cosmopolitan innovator and civic leader. The Palmquist Fund provided essential funding for my research into Gardner’s photographic practices and camera work.