In the days before personal computers, cell phones and email came the yearbook “Grinnell College – 1966,” deemed too controversial and banned from publication by the college until 1986. Photographed by Grinnell alumni Henry Wilhelm and the late John Phillips with contributions from fellow students John Wolf and Robert Hodierne, the yearbook was created as a photographic documentary of life in and out of the classroom at Grinnell during the mid-1960s, a time that soon led to major cultural and political turmoil on campuses and in society.
As part of a project to digitally re-master the 1966 yearbook for free worldwide online distribution, more than 100 high-quality, large-format photographs selected from the yearbook will be exhibited at Grinnell’s Faulconer Gallery, Apr. 13-June 3. The black-and-white images have been digitally printed from high-resolution scans of the photographers’ original 35mm negatives, preserved by Wilhelm for more than 45 years.
Wilhelm is an internationally recognized expert on photographic preservation and director of research at Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc. in Grinnell. He has been a preservation consultant to numerous collecting institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Corbis documentary photography collections owned by Bill Gates. In 2007, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Photoimaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association for his work on the evaluation of the permanence of traditional and digital color prints. In 2011, he received an honorary doctor of science degree from Grinnell.
A series of free, public exhibition programs, sponsored by Grinnell College and Faulconer Gallery, will provide background on the yearbook project and insight into the technological transformations making it accessible to the public. All events will be held in Faulconer Gallery unless otherwise noted.
• Apr. 13, 4:15 p.m.: A panel discussion by college trustee Harold Fuson, an authority on freedom of the press; Wolf, who co-authored the yearbook’s text; attorney Michael Horwatt; and Wilhelm will focus on the book’s innovations, controversies and eventual publication. The discussion, moderated by Grinnell President Emeritus George Drake who arranged to publish the yearbook in 1986, will include First Amendment rights and the exercise and restraint of those rights at colleges and universities. Fuson, former editor of the college newspaper, lawyer, and journalist, is the author of “Telling it All: A Legal Guide to the Exercise of Free Speech.” Horwatt represented Phillips and Wilhelm in 1966 in negotiations with the college about the banned yearbook.
• April 13, 6-7 p.m.: Opening reception.
• Apr. 24, 4:15 p.m.: “The Forbidden Text” reading and panel discussion by Grinnell College students, faculty and staff who will read from censored or banned texts and explore issues of censorship and technology.
• May 3, 4:15 p.m.: Gallery talk by Wilhelm about the changing technologies of photography, printing and image storage since the 1960s.
Concurrent with the “1966 Yearbook Project” are three special exhibitions in campus galleries: civil rights photographs by John Phillips in Burling Gallery and John Chrystal Center, and a related Burling Gallery exhibit of activism photos and memorabilia organized by members of classes from 1967 to 1973. The Phillips’ prints, selected from two portfolios of work acquired by Faulconer Gallery, include photographs taken in 1965 of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic voting rights protests in Selma, Ala.
A set of prints of the 501 photographs in the yearbook will become part of the college’s permanent collection, and a high-resolution Adobe Acrobat PDF/A archival format digital edition of the book will also be created for online distribution. Supporters of these projects include Grinnell College, the late John Phillips, Henry, Carol, and Charlie Wilhelm, and the staff of Wilhelm Imaging Research, with assistance from Canon and ScanCafe.
Faulconer Gallery, located in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, 1108 Park St. on the Grinnell campus, is open Tuesday-Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday-Friday, noon to 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; closed Monday. For more information about the photographers, exhibition and related programs, call 641-269-4660 or visit www.grinnell.edu/faulconergallery.