Colton Klein Wins Mervat Zahid Cultural Foundation Prize

Photograph of disabled Union veterans of the American Civil War.
May 2, 2024

Colton Klein, a first-year doctoral student and Whitney Humanities Center Graduate Fellow in the Environmental Humanities, has been awarded the 2024 Mervat Zahid Cultural Foundation Prize for his paper “Material Reconstruction: Ecologies of Metal in an 1887 Photograph of Disabled Union Veterans.” 


The prize, bestowed by the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art (AHNCA) in collaboration with the Dahesh Museum of Art, recognizes exceptional scholarship presented at the Graduate Student Symposium in Nineteenth-Century Art.  


Colton’s award-winning paper examines a photograph from 1887 featuring eighteen disabled Union veterans of the American Civil War. He traces the material reconstruction of the veterans’ badges, which were composed of copper forged by enslaved metalworkers and recast from confederate cannons. His analysis applies ecologies of metal to uncover the photograph’s covert histories of extraction, race, violence, and disability.  


This recognition of Colton Klein’s innovative work underscores the vital role the environmental humanities play in expanding the scope and stakes of art historical research.