The visual material in this Archive relates to the lives of the family: Hortense Mitchell (1871-1962), her husband, Arthur Acton (1873-1953), and their two sons Harold (1904-1994) and William (1906-1945). Loose photographs, photograph albums, negatives, scrapbooks, postcards, as well as images on glass, had been stored by the family at random in boxes, files, drawers, cupboards, desks, hat boxes, etc. in various rooms of their residence Villa La Pietra, Florence (much of it mixed with correspondence and other papers) from around 1903 up until Harold Acton’s death in 1994. It includes remarkably fine early studio portraits, many cabinet card photos bearing an albumen or gelatin silver print taken at the end of the 19th century for the Mitchell family and their circle in Chicago, and some cartes-de-visite photos dating from circa 1870 of Arthur Acton’s ancestors. There is a very full documentation of the family’s life at Villa La Pietra, including visitors to the villa, from the first years of the 20th century up to Harold’s death.

There is also a complete documentation of the various phases of the construction of the garden from the very first years of their work on it. The valuable collection of stereographs and autochromes include numerous images of the family at Villa La Pietra and its garden. Another series of photos show how the interior of Villa La Pietra has appeared over the decades, and document the various works of art which decorate the rooms or have done so in the past. Other photographs of works of art document private collections in the early 20th century, many of which have since been broken up. There are numerous photographs of works of art, purchased by the for study purposes. Other photographs are of places (all over the world), and there is a particularly rich collection of images of Italian villas and gardens. The postcard collection (excepting those with correspondence which have been extracted for the paper archives) is very extensive and includes many annotated on the verso documenting travels by Hortense or Harold in the first decades of the 20th century.

Photograph Archive Resources

The photographic images preserved in Villa La Pietra date from around 1870 to 1994 and are extraordinarily varied in subject matter.

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Photograph Archive Conservation

Since the beginning of NYU’s stewardship of the site in 1994, conservation of the collection has been a central priority. In the past the twenty years, in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU, American and Italian conservators have conducted a wide range of conservation projects from the restoration and cleaning of paintings, frescoes and sculptures to textiles, furniture and books.

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