The Myra Albert Wiggins papers are an avenue into the life of a female artist in the early twentieth century. Myra Albert Wiggins (1869-1956) was a successful photographer, painter, and poet who grew up in Salem, Oregon and attended Willamette University. She showed natural artistic talent at an early age, spending hours drawing and painting in her home and in fields around Salem. She won the first of many awards for painting at the Oregon State Fair when she was 17. Between 1886 and 1907 she won a total of 94 more state fair awards for her art.
Between 1891 and 1894, Wiggins studied at the Art Students League in New York. In the early 1900s, Wiggins also engaged in pictorial photography, which involved using the camera to creating images intended to evoke emotional expression. Using artwork as an artistic medium was a new phenomenon at the time. Wiggins’ took pictorial photographs as she traveled throughout Europe, Egypt and Turkey.
Wiggins was one of the first women to become a member of The Camera Club of New York. In 1903, Alfred Stieglitz, one of the most important photographers of the time, admitted her as a member of Photo-Secession, a movement of photographers united to promote photography as art. Wiggins continued as a painter, photographer and poet in Salem, Oregon, and Seattle and Toppenish, Washington. She co-founded the Women Painters of Washington in 1930, and was featured in exhibitions throughout the United States including the National Gallery in Washington, D.C and the National Academy in New York. She also taught and wrote on topics of photography and painting.
The Willamette University Archives and Special Collections is home to the Myra Albert Wiggins papers, a collection of correspondence, photographs, and artwork. Her papers contain correspondence with family and friends as well as business correspondence about her artwork. The Wiggins papers also contain memorabilia and Wiggins’ diaries written between 1936 and 1944. Thanks to a recently awarded Hewlett Grant, these diaries will soon be digitized and transcribed.
For more information on Wiggins, researchers can see the Bonnie and Roger Hull collection on Myra Albert Wiggins. This collection is a compilation of photographs, correspondence and research materials assembled by Bonnie and Roger Hull for their exhibition and article honoring Wiggins.