Have you noticed the silhouettes in the law office? As a graduate student, I worked with a group of my classmates from the Cooperstown Graduate Program to develop this exhibit. To create exhibit panels in the shapes of people, we used historic photographs that we found through the Library of Congress. We chose these images because they represented a variety of people who lived in the 1850s (the time of the Dred Scott decision) and because their subjects had silhouette shapes that could fit the text and images we added to the panels. Some people are famous – like Dred and Harriet Scott and William Sidney Mount – and some are not. In fact, my favorite silhouette comes from the only person not identified on the LOC website. He probably worked in a foundry since he is photographed holding a floor rammer, a tool used for packing sand around a pattern to create the mold for a metal casting. After creating his silhouette from the photo (he’s the one on the left), we began to refer to him simply as Ears. The silhouette captures many details: the tilt of his hat, the wrinkles on his pants, his rolled sleeves, his straight posture, and the shape of his ears. I’m not sure why this silhouette is my favorite, but it catches my eye whenever I visit the law office.
Top: Occupational portrait of two men, standing full length holding floor rammers, foundry tools used for packing sand against molds. ca. 1850. Libraryof Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZC4-11324