Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail (c. 1873) by Albert Bierstadt - Yale University Art Gallery - New Haven, CT

Peaks and Valley

A photo essay. (To view all the photos, check out the email version of this story.)

Of the many objects I noted while exploring Yosemite: Exploring the Incomparable Valley, exhibiting now at the Yale University Art Gallery, I realized later that not a single one was sourced from outside Yale. Black-and-white stereoscopes of the valley, dating to the 19th and early 20th centuries and equipped with adjustable 3D lenses, were borrowed from the Beinecke Library. A core sample of an American Redwood—the massive, towering tree that grows in and around Yosemite—was loaned by the School of Forestry. Albert Bierstadt’s painting Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail (c. 1873), a luminous capturing of the place’s inhuman scale and human appeal, was pulled from the gallery’s own collections. The same goes for Monolith, a photograph snapped by Ansel Adams in 1927, and Looking Down the Yo-Semite, a lithograph printed by Currier and Ives in the 1860s.

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That a university in Connecticut would keep so many artifacts related to a valley in California is a testament to how iconic that valley really is. Its highest granite tower, shooting over 3,000 feet into the sky, “dwarfs even the tallest buildings in the world,” one placard notes.

Such features give awe to Yosemite’s contemporary visitors, so one can only imagine what feelings they must have caused in people not used to skyscrapers or supersonic jets or movies featuring realistic-looking alien invasions. We needn’t wonder why, in 1864—marking the United States government’s first such conservation effort, and planting a seed that would eventually grow into America’s national parks system—President Abraham Lincoln signed the valley’s preservation into law.

But while America’s Yosemite is protected into perpetuity, Yale’s Yosemite disappears after December 31. Visit its vastness while you can.

Yosemite: Exploring the Incomparable Valley
Yale University Art Gallery – 1111 Chapel St, New Haven (map)
Tues-Wed 10am-5pm, Thurs 10am-8pm, Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-5pm through 12/31/16
(203) 432-0601

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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