While the current economic situation has forced many collegiate museums to grapple with their importance and endurance, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art continues to house exhibits that display the strength of the museum as an institution. From January 22-April 5, "The Image Wrought: Historical Photographs in the Digital Age" showcases the museum's ancient relics and enable viewers to examine the relationship between today's society and those of the past.

"The Image Wrought," an exhibit from the collection of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, examines the ways in which a growing number of contemporary photographers have chosen to revive early photo practices and techniques. In an era dominated by digital technology, the choice to revert to more manual and labor-intensive techniques reaffirms the hand of the artist in contemporary photography.

This return to past photographic traditions raises several questions. Primarily, it pushes the viewer to examine the relationship between the photographer and the photograph. More broadly, the exhibit pushes the viewer to examine the ways in which contemporary photographers view the past.

The exhibit fosters this exploration on various visual levels. "The Image Wrought" is composed of both historical and contemporary photographs strategically hung to juxtapose the artistic process and the artistic intent of the photographers. The exhibit chronologically examines the development of the nineteenth-century photographic processes as well as that of camera technology and the evolution of photographic decisions and experimentation.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Lauren Kroiz found the exhibit especially engaging for her art history course "Photographic Invention." In addition to displaying beautiful objects, the exhibit provides an educational experience, she said. The exhibit includes informative and engaging museum tags that explain the developments of the film process. More importantly, however, Kroiz explains that there is a certain type of art-historical learning and understanding that can only be grasped visually.

"It has been an invaluable resource for illustrating what exceptional works of art in a variety of photographic processes actually look like," she said of the exhibit. "You can't see or really understand what these processes mean if you've only seen reproductions in a slide or in a book."

Seeing these 19th century photographs beside the work of contemporary photographers is a unique and provocative experience, according to Kroiz.

"[Exhibiting] contemporary artists who are using processes invented in the nineteenth century provides a riveting example of the way the history of art can be quite relevant in informing and inspiring the practice of art," she said.

While "The Image Wrought" explores the relationship between the artist and the past, the questions it raises are not limited to the role of the artist. On every wall of the exhibit, the viewer is pushed to explore what it means to live in a contemporary world shaped by the hands of the past.

Bowdoin is hosting several lectures in conjunction with "The Image Wrought." Robin Kelsey, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Humanities at Harvard University, is giving a talk titled "Victorian Social Matter: Julia Margaret Cameron's Photography" today at 4:30 p.m. in Searles 315. On Monday, photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley will speak at 7 p.m. in Searles 315 about "American Tintype Portraits."

"The Image Wrought" will be on display until April 5 in the Halford Gallery and the Bernard and Barbro Osher Gallery in the Walker Art Museum.