Scope and arrangement
The Shirley C. Burden papers are arranged in six series:
The majority of the correspondence series deals with letters to and from friends and for the most part concerns business related subjects during his early career as a studio photographer.
Series 2 deals with Burden's published works. Box 3 includes all information compiled during his work on Behold Thy Mother. Collected here are the negative index for the book, copies of the proposed text for the book, correspondences with friends in France regarding Lourdes and the book, and other miscellaneous photographic data. Also included is a book gift-list for his friends, royalty records, book-review articles, and insurance records.
Box 3 and Box 4 contain the collection of materials related to The Chairs. Similar to the previous book, included here are samples of text to be used, a negative index, and book review articles. Also included here are correspondences with the publisher, Aperture, various publishing information, a complete photocopied version of the book, and information concerning the use of some of his 'Chairs" photographs at the Ledel Gallery in New York in 1987.
Box 4 and Box 5 contain Burden's files on his ongoing Ellis Island projects. He was enthusiastically involved in the restoration efforts during the 1970's and 1980's and his lifelong passion of photographing this landmark of American heritage can be deduced from these lengthy files. Included are several negative indexes of the many photographic exhibitions which featured his Ellis Island and Weehawken ferry works as well as the correspondences with the museums which featured these works. Of special interest here are the articles and correspondences Burden kept regarding the Statue of Liberty Project which funded the preservation attempts to restore the much neglected Ellis Island. Also included are many requests from museums and other exhibitors throughout the country for the use of his Ellis Island photographs from his private collection which included photographs taken by other artists during the turn of the century.
Box 5 and Box 6 include the information regarding Burden's work on God Is My Life. Again, contained here are copyright information, a sample text and photographic layout, a book gift-list, letters of praise from Burden's friends as well as many prominent and lesser religious figures both in the United States and abroad, review articles, and a publication contract. Of special interest here is the extensive correspondence Burden maintained with the Trappist monks from 1957 up to 1981, as well as collected Trappist literature and several photographic Trappist calendars which Burden helped create.
Box 6 and Box 7 contain Burden's collected information on I Wonder Why. As before, included here are a negative index and other picture layouts, contract and publishing information, a book gift-list, several letters from various agencies requesting permission to use some of his "I Wonder Why" photographs, and several book review articles from various publications. Also included is information regarding the use of some of his photographs on The Red Skelton Show which aired February 23, 1965 with other various files concerning television show and film offers. There is also publishing and general information on the German version of the book, Ich Frage Mich. Burden received many letters of praise from friends and the public which are included here but surprisingly enough it is the file labeled "Not to be Answered" that is most striking. This folder contains several negative public responses to an abbreviated version of I Wonder Why which appeared in Reader's Digest in February, 1964. All letters of this sort were from prejudiced and racist readers across the country and their content is quite shocking and gives clear evidence of the extremely prejudiced sentiments people harbored during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's. One such critic went so far as to send Mr. Burden a pamphlet of white-supreme's literature and propaganda which is also included here.
Box 8 contains the information related to Presence. Included here are contract and publishing information, a book gift-list, the negative index and photographic layouts, a copy of the full text, responses from the public, royalty records, and files on some proposed titles for this work and some initial sample text for each chapter.
Box 8 contains Burden's collected material on the history of his Vanderbilt ancestors and his work on The Vanderbilts in My Life. Here also are publishing records and receipts, photographic layouts, and a preliminary book jacket with some sample pages with photographs from the publisher. Of special interest here are Burden's collected material on the history of Cornelius Vanderbilt and his descendants including an extensive family tree of the Vanderbilt family and his notes and research data on this subject.
The largest of all the series, it is indicative of how popular Burden and his work was to the photography world.
Those files relating to his exhibitions include royalty receipts, shipping and handling receipts, review articles, floor plans and layouts of his exhibits, invitations Burden sent to his friends to the opening of some of his shows, the brochures of his shows, and general correspondences with museum curators. Burden also saved the guest sign-in book from his Witkin Gallery show and it is included here.
Those files related to publications found in this series in which his work appeared whether it was on television, in periodicals, or in books, mainly deal with letters of request from various publishing agencies to use his photographs. Also included are payment receipts for the use of his photographs, and copies of some of the periodicals in which Burden's work appeared. A phonograph recording of an interview of Burden regarding his book Behold Thy Mother, is also included.
Those exhibits, publications, and projects which featured Shirley Carter Burden's work and assistance exclusively including those publications and projects which were denied use of his works:.
Series 4 contains records for the photography studio he operated in Beverly Hills. While Burden never truly abandoned his business here, the marked reduction in files after 1957 related to his studio business is evidence of the amount of time Burden focused on his photographic essay projects and other fine arts works. Included here are files of jobs to be billed or waiting for payment, billing statements, and customer receipts.
Series 4 also contains information on the photographs and photographic material Burden mailed to museums, friends, and customers. Included here are records on the various negatives and photographs both shipped and received by Burden during the years 1962 to 1985. Of interest here are the works mailed to the monks at Gethsemani, shipping information on the photographs taken by Dorothea Lange of his daughter's wedding, and information on the many prints shipped which were used in various publications and the insurance claim forms that went with them.
Box 17 contains the information Burden collected on equipment maintenance and photographic preservation. Included are warranty records for cameras and other equipment, articles on archival film storage and photograph preservation, equipment catalogues, various owner manuals, receipts for the delivery and mounting of his photograph collection, rental receipts for equipment used, sales receipts for equipment purchased, and information on film storage and retouching.
Series 5 relates to the information on Burden's private collection of other photographers' works as well as his attempts to collect their works. Included also are correspondences and materials related to Burden's efforts to collect fine arts photography for the American Society of Magazine Photographers. Included here are information on the attempts to purchase Edward Weston's collection and the Eugene Atget collection of historical photographs. Also included here is the information regarding the various art shows which used materials from his private collection in their exhibits.
The last series contains information Burden collected on other photographers and other miscellaneous subject files. Burden dedicated the most space to information on Dorothea Lange, but the photographer files also contain the information Burden collected on Lewis Hine, Ansel Adams, and Wynn Bullock, Minor White, and some other lesser known photographers and artists. The miscellaneous files in Box 20 are best explained by their folder title in the Container List below.