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ICOHTEC Prize for Young Scholars 2016

The committee consisted of Irina Gouzevitch, Jeremy Kinney, Klaus Stauberman, and David Zimmerman as the Chair. From among thirteen entries submitted to this year's competition the following work has been selected: Vanessa Meikle Schulman, Work sights: The Visual Culture of Industry in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Massachusetts Press 2015).

Below is a summary of the committee’s comments on the winning entry:  

Schulman’s work is an insightful merging of current historiography in the social and cultural history of technology, labour history, print history, and art history. Her work examines work of artists and engravers in illustrating technology for the general public in the period between the end of the American Civil War in 1865 and the start of the Progressive Era in the 1890s. She argues that “visual language of the imagery” of artists and engraver presented a hopeful view of technology and the work place that was lacking in the gray half-tone photographic reproductions that replaced the artistic skills of the illustrator. Schulman argues that this these artists helped shape American views of technology as the United States emerged as one of the world’s centers of technological innovation and industrial production. Her work focuses on the visual representations contained in popular magazines such as Harper’s Weekly.  Schulman perhaps best explains her goals in the majestic study:
To ascertain some of the meanings these images held for their viewers, to explore how artists working in divergent visual media helped to shape American ideas about technology, and to consider hidden chains of association, teasing out how an image’s visual armature creates rhetorical positions within a larger culture of debate and representation. (p.2)
Schulmans work represents the very best of this new approach, which fuses together these multiple fields of history. She provides a thoughtful analysis that forcefully proves the significant influence of the artist and engraver in shaping American perceptions of technology during the 2nd Industrial Revolution. 

David Zimmerman
University of Victoria

8 July 2015


Page updated: 22 October 2016


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