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If you’re interested in postmortem and/or old medical or crime scene photography (for starters), chances are good you’re already well acquainted with the wondrous Burns Archive. Founded in 1977 by Stanley B. Burns, MD, renowned author, curator, historian, collector, archivist, television/film consultant, and one of our personal heroes here at Haute Macabre, The Burn Archive is the largest private collection of historic photographs, a treasury of “photographic evidence of forgotten, unseen and disquieting aspects of history.” It’s a vast and unparalleled resource utilized by countless publishers, curators, authors, researchers, artists and filmmakers over the last 40 years and counting.
In addition to curating and contributing to exhibitions around the world, The Burns Archive grants us personal access to its collection via the publication of dozens of magnificent books. Though I’ve yet to track down a copy of Sleeping Beauty that’s within my price range, I’m proud to say that my own library is home to quite a few volumes from The Burns Archive collection. And now we’re excited to share the news that they’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of their next book, Masked Fear: The Psychology of Gas Warfare 1918-1941.
“Masked Fear: The Psychology of Gas Warfare 1918-1941 is the first book to document the visual expression of the fear of gas warfare in the 1930s. During WWI, the devastating and horrific effects of toxic gases were exposed. To ensure the safety of citizens against future attacks, governments in developed countries, especially those in Europe, were gripped by an overwhelming need to protect their citizens from the most dreaded weapon of mass destruction – poison gas. Essential to protection was the gas mask and all citizens were issued one.”
“The photographs in Masked Fear portray this fascinating and frightening time in twentieth century history. Period press photographs visually tell the tale of a world consumed by apprehension, anxiety and fear of poison gas.”
Plenty of people somehow appreciate gas masks today, collecting and displaying them, incorporating them into art projects or costumes, but we’re now generations removed from the period during which their presence in everyday life and the threat of their necessity made them inherently disturbing and ultimately iconic objects. Masked Fears tells “the pictorial story of the usage of gas masks and the normalization of the fear of gas attacks between the two world wars.”
Join us in helping The Burns Archive bring Masked Fear into the world. Visit the Masked Fear Kickstarter page to learn more about the book, pledge levels, and an exhibition event happening in 2018.