Ramalingam: Teaching the Art of Discovery

According to Chitra Ramalingam, the assistant curator of photography at the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) who is also a lecturer in History, there is no better place to teach a course on the interdisciplinary history of photography than at Yale. This is largely because, as an old and storied research institution, Yale is a repository of photographs used across the disciplines over nearly two centuries of the medium’s existence. In 2010, four years before Ramalingam arrived on campus, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded a cross-departmental team to perform a survey attempting to determine the total number and character of photographs housed in Yale’s departments and collections. The answer they found was an awe-inspiring 3.8 million. For the past three years, through her work at the YCBA and in the classroom, Ramalingam has taken it upon herself to locate and study as many of these photographs as she can. To her delight, she quickly discovered that many of Yale’s photographs can be found in unexpected places.