A new image archive of L.A. murals has just been made available online.
As a Multicultural Undergraduate Intern working at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) this summer, I worked with colleagues in Field Projects and the Information Center on the project to make the Ernest A. Long Outdoor Mural Image Archive accessible to scholars and the interested public.
The archive consists of images of public murals, mostly in Los Angeles, but also extending to Northern California, down to San Diego, and even as far away as Santa Fe, New Mexico, documented by mural enthusiast Ernest A. Long between 1973 and 1983.
Long, a Los Angeles attorney with an enduring interest in the arts, began taking extended walks and in the process discovered a new hobby—photographing the murals that were just beginning to appear on empty walls across the city. The mural movement of Los Angeles was in its infancy in the early 1970s, with artists and communities joining forces to beautify their neighborhoods and create a sense of civic pride.
Over two decades, Long managed to capture more than 500 images of mural art being showcased in the streets. In 2007, he donated digital copies of his images to the Getty Conservation Institute for the purpose of supporting the Institute’s research into mural painting conservation. More recently, Long granted permission to the Institute to make the images available to the public for viewing at the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute and online.
During my two months at the Conservation Institute, I conducted extensive research on the mural movement in Los Angeles, made contact with scores of artists from all over L.A. and across the country, and obtained permission from artists in the archive to make these images available to the public free of charge. I even helped organize a day-long tour to visit murals in East L.A., downtown, and mid-city.
The artists’ overwhelming positive response to this project was astonishing and reinforced the notion of the value of the collection. At this point, we’ve identified and received permission from nearly half the artists in the archive, and we’re waiting to hear from and locate other artists who can provide information about their work.
This project was a huge undertaking, and it couldn’t have been possible without the contribution of the artists represented in the collection, or the team of great people I’ve come to know at the Getty.
The Ernest A. Long collection will serve as a public resource for documentation of the Los Angeles mural movement. I also hope it will offer an interesting glimpse into an important aspect of L.A.’s cultural history through the perspective of an individual who loved art and just needed to take a walk.