Kolby Yarnell

  • Songs of Ourselves

    “For a collector . . . ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to things,” wrote Walter Benjamin in “Unpacking My Library.” “Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.” Benjamin’s distinction is illuminating in the context of debates over twentieth-century folklorist Alan Lomax. Lomax, who died in 2002, has a permanent place in the pantheon of American music—and yet the legacy of the Ivy League–educated white ethnomusicologist is complicated by his role as a collector of folk songs by poor, uneducated artists, many of them black. Lomax traversed the

  • Haunted Houses

    A haunting is a doorway into the private history of place. Such is the idea of Corinne May Botz’s compelling collection of photographs (and accompanying oral narratives) from eighty allegedly haunted houses, which includes mostly private residences, like the one above from Orange County, Virginia, as well as a few legendary sites like Edgar Allan Poe’s home in Baltimore and Alice’s Grave on Pawleys Island, South Carolina, where people (including Botz) have seen Alice’s ghost, said to be searching for her engagement ring. Nineteenth-century spiritualists employed photography as a medium to the

  • Parcours Muséologique Revisité

    When strolling in an old church or museum, it’s often tempting to sneak into a roped-off section or peek behind a closed door. What, after all, could be hiding from us? Perhaps nothing more than an old broom. For the past twenty-five years, Canadian photographer Robert Polidori has been going behind the scenes at the Palace of Versailles to document periods of restoration and change. The result, nearly five hundred photographs collected in three volumes, is a far more intimate and revealing scene than the curated period set tourists flock to year-round. As a stage for the modern era, Versailles