The photography collection at Princeton is one of the leading museum collections in the country. The first photograph in the collection, a work by Alfred Stieglitz, was registered in 1949. In 1971, David Hunter McAlpin, Class of 1920, and Mrs. McAlpin donated their personal collection of nearly 500 photographs, including works by Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Sheeler, and Edward Weston. Since then the department's holdings have grown to over 20,000 photographs by more than 900 artists, forming a comprehensive history of the medium from the 1840s to the present. Archives housed in the department include those of Minor White, Clarence H. White and the Clarence H. White School of Photography, Ruth Bernhard, and William B. Dyer. Photography at Princeton, an extensive catalogue of the collection, was published in 1998. The collection is available to students and scholars through exhibition or viewing in the study room by appointment.
The Life and Death of Buildings—on view from July 23 through November 6, 2011—was a meditation on architecture, photography, and the ways they embody the past. The exhibition addressed the long-term flux of built environments—their birth and evolution, disappearance and excavation, re-use and re-invention—as a mode of continuity that defines history and civilization. It served as the capstone event in a yearlong collaborative exploration, MEMORY AND THE WORK OF ART, organized by arts and cultural organizations at Princeton University and in the Princeton community. The website combines selected objects and texts from the exhibition with related links.