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Contact: Diana Kenney, MBL, 508-289-7139; dkenney@mbl.edu

New MBL Exhibit Features Photography of Robert Allen

"Collecting in Shallow Water," by George G. Lower. One of the photos included in "Robert Allen's Woods Hole," currently on exhibit at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

WOODS HOLE, MA—The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) invites the public to view “Robert Allen’s Woods Hole,” the latest in a series of exhibits from the archives of the MBLWHOI Library. The exhibit is free and open to the public by appointment or by chance starting on Friday, June 17. It hangs in MBL’s Swope Conference Center, 5 North Street, Woods Hole.

Curated by Ann Weissmann, the exhibit features the photography of Robert Allen (1928-1986), one of America’s leading cell biologists and a longtime member of the MBL community. Allen began his association with the MBL in 1950 and returned nearly every summer thereafter. During his 36 years at the MBL—as a student, instructor, and trustee—Allen photographed a wide variety of scenes, both in and out of the lab. The exhibit includes photographs of Woods Hole village, aerial views taken from a low-flying plane, and scenes depicting life at the MBL.

In addition to holding faculty positions at such prestigious institutions as the University of Michigan, Princeton, and Dartmouth College, Robert Allen was a noted cellist. He held joint professorships in biology and music while at Princeton, and was a member of the Rhode Island Symphony and of the Tanglewood Orchestra. His third career, in photography, hitherto unacknowledged, is displayed at the MBL for the first time.

The Robert Allen Collection in the MBLWHOI Library consists of scientific memorabilia, handwritten correspondence, MBL Optics course notebooks, and more than150 Kodachrome slides. The majority of these were photographed by Allen in a formalist style. Several slides were produced by other people and selected by Allen for inclusion in his collection. Most notable is the work of George Lower (1895-1986), a commercial photographer known for his images of underwater life, who was active at Woods Hole in the 1940s and 50s. His compelling photographs are a major discovery in the Robert Allen Collection and include scenes of specimen collection off the boat, Nereis, and images of glass blowers hired by the MBL to create custom glassware for scientists. A selection of Lower’s slides has been digitized for this exhibition and is being shown for the first time.

“Robert Allen’s Woods Hole” will be on display through May 2013. To make a viewing appointment or for more information, call 508-289-7423.


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in 1888 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the MBL is an independent, nonprofit corporation.