Interview: Ami Ronnberg – curator of ARAS and editor-in-chief of Taschen’s Book of Symbols

Pam Grossman

Originally published on

Housed in a building in midtown Manhattan is a most unusual library that traffics in dreams and images accompanied by texts.  Here you’ll find books about myths and a card catalog that has drawers full of symbolic themes instead of the usual Dewey Decimal reference numbers.  ARAS, or the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, is a repository of symbols: a space both in the physical world and online, where one can study archetypal imagery, based on psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s theory that images are the universal language of the collective unconscious.

A 30,000 year-old sculpture made of mammoth ivory.
Hohle Fels, Ach River Valley, Germany

Why do swans keep showing up in your mind as you sleep?  Are you writing a story about a battle, or working on a campaign with a jester as its main character?  A visit to ARAS can help you meditate on these images and more, teaching you about the occurrence of these archetypes throughout world culture over time, and inspiring you to mull over their meanings.

Getty Images’ Visual Trends Director, Pam Grossman, chats with Ami Ronnberg, curator of ARAS and editor-in-chief of The Book of Symbols about how archetypal imagery influences human creativity in art and commerce.

PG:  Can you talk a little bit about what archetypes are and why archetypes matter?

AR:  Archetypes can be described as the structure of the psyche and they are also what makes each one of us unique.  Archetypes can never be known directly – we only know of them through symbols or archetypal images.  They are universal expressions of human experience and reach back to the dawn of mankind.

Read the entire interview.