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Harvard Digitizes American Indian Portraits

Harvard University's Tozzer Library recently digitized Photographs of North American Indians. ca. 1850-1879.

More information on this collection can be found here:

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What are photographs of Native Americans from the central and western parts of the United States doing in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society? The portraits in this web presentation were collected by four Bostonians during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Charles W. Jenks and Francis Parkman collected carte de visite and tintype portraits of American Indians during the 1860s as historical records of tribal groups and their role in contemporary American politics. After a visit to southern California, Boston collector Kingsmill Marrs brought home platinotypes of southwestern Indians taken by Adam Clark Vroman in the late 1890s. An anonymous donor was inspired to collect Joseph Kossuth Dixon's photogravures from the Wanamaker Indian expeditions of the early 1900s after hearing Dixon lecture in 1912.

Early portrait photographs of Native Americans, similar to those presented in this web exhibition, reflect a widespread public interest in Indian life during the 1860s. In the mid-nineteenth century, the popular carte de visite photograph introduced the faces of prominent public figures into homes across America. Easily mass-produced, uniformly sized, and cheaper to purchase than early cased photographs, these portraits were collected, in part, as a record of current political and social events and of the people who drove them. Patented by French photographer André Disdéri in 1854, cartes de visite were introduced to the United States in 1859. The craze for these photographic "calling cards" took off in the 1860s, leading Oliver Wendell Holmes to write in 1863 that "card portraits ... have become the social currency, the 'greenbacks of civilization.'"

These striking images of Native Americans depict the changing ways in which photographers portrayed native subjects during the latter half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. From 1860, when the first portrait in this collection was taken, to 1913, the nation experienced unprecedented growth and American settlers claimed lands previously held by Indian tribes. These images are attempts by photographers to document what they saw as the fading of Native American cultures and traditions, to illustrate periods of conflict between the U.S. government and the tribes, and, by the twentieth century, to evoke political sympathy for the cause of the "vanishing race."

Funding from the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation supported this project.

Occupation of Alcatraz Collection

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The San Francisco Bay Area Television Archives presents The Occupation of Alcatraz Collection:

Established in 1982, the TV Archive preserves over 4000 hours of newsfilm, documentaries and other programs produced locally in the Bay Area and Northern California between 1939-2005. It is part of SF State Library's Department of Special Collections.

The archive is currently working on a federally funded project to digitize, preserve and make available over 100 hours of 16mm film from our collection. We are also collaborating with KQED to make another 60 hours of civil rights related material available, as part of the American Archives Pilot Program.

Eventually all of this unique footage will be made exclusively available to view online in DIVA.

Users may not download the compressed MPEG-4 viewing files in DIVA, due to copyright restrictions. Please contact resident film archivist Alex Cherian if you require access to higher quality master footage: Email: / Tel: 415-817-4261

The San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive is a collection maintained by the Leonard Library.
DIVA is a project of Academic Technology at San Francisco State University. © 2009 San Francisco State University.

Library of Congress: Edward S. Curtis Collection

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The Library of Congress has developed an online collection for Edward S. Curtis's photographs. For more information check out the Library of Congress site:

"Planning a Raid." Scene from the re-enactment of the Battle of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Copyrighted 1907.
Call number: LOT 12319 Reproduction number: LC-USZ62-90799

Biography and Background of the Collection

Although unknown for many years, Edward S. Curtis is today one of the most well-recognized and celebrated photographers of Native people. Born near White Water, Wisconsin, on February 16, 1868, he became interested in the emerging art of photography when he was quite young, building his first camera when he was still an adolescent. In Seattle, where his family moved in 1887, he acquired part interest in a portrait photography studio and soon became sole owner of the successful business, renaming it Edward S. Curtis Photographer and Photoengraver.

In the mid 1890s, Curtis began photographing local Puget Sound Native Americans digging for clams and mussels on the tide flats. One of his earliest models was Princess Angeline, the aged daughter of Sealth, the Suquamish chief after whom Seattle was named. Later, as an official photographer of the 1899 Harriman Expedition, Curtis documented the geological features of the Alaskan wilderness as well as its indigenous population. This was a pivotal experience for Curtis and greatly increased his interest in Native cultures. He visited tribal communities in Montana and Arizona and began in earnest to photograph many other Native Americans in the West, spending more time in the field and less time in his studio.

The North American Indian Project

In the early years of the 20th century, Curtis embarked on a thirty-year mission which he described as an effort "to form a comprehensive and permanent record of all the important tribes of the United States and Alaska that still retain to a considerable degree their...customs and traditions." Along with most scholars of this period, he believed that indigenous communities would inevitably be absorbed into white society, losing their unique cultural identities. He wanted to create a scholarly and artistic work that would document the ceremonies, beliefs, customs, daily life, and leaders of these groups before they "vanished." The North American Indian project, Curtis decided, would be a set of 20 volumes of ethnographic text illustrated with high quality photoengravings taken from his glass plate negatives. Each of these volumes would be accompanied by a portfolio of large size photogravures, elegantly bound in leather and printed on the highest quality paper. To fund the enormous project, Curtis would sell subscriptions to five hundred sets of the publication.

Working alone or with various assistants, soliciting donations and support from diverse sources including President Theodore Roosevelt and the railroad tycoon John Pierpont Morgan, and also accumulating a heavy personal debt, Curtis visited more than eighty tribes across the country, and north into Alaska and parts of Canada. Eventually, he took more than 40,000 photographs; made over 10,000 recordings of Native speech and music; produced lectures, slide shows, and a multi-media Curtis Indian Picture Opera throughout the U.S.; and in 1914 directed In the Land of the Headhunters, an inventive, seminal film documentary on the Kwakiutl tribe.

Volume one of The North American Indian appeared in 1907. In 1930 the last two volumes were finally published, completing nearly thirty years of work. Only 272 complete sets had been printed. By this time, the modest popularity of Curtis's work had diminished and the North American Indian Corporation--the business enterprise overseeing Curtis's ethnographic ventures--soon liquidated its assets. When he died in 1952, his lifework with Native Americans had all but faded into obscurity. "Rediscovered" in the 1960s and 1970s, Curtis's photographic work is now recognized as one of the most significant records of Native culture ever produced. His photographs have been included in virtually every anthology of historical photographs of Native Americans and are now frequently used to illustrate books and documentaries.

Collection Scope and Description

The Prints and Photographs Division Curtis collection consists of more than 2,400 silver-gelatin, first generation photographic prints--some of which are sepia-toned--made from Curtis's original glass negatives. Most of the photographic prints are 5" x 7" although nearly one hundred are 11" x 14" and larger; many include the Curtis file or negative number within the image at the lower left-hand corner. Acquired by the Library of Congress through copyright deposit from about 1900 through 1930, the dates on the images reflect date of registration, not when the photograph was actually taken. About two-thirds (1,608) of these images were not published in the North American Indian volumes and therefore offer a different and unique glimpse into Curtis's work with indigenous cultures. The original glass plate negatives--most of which had been stored and nearly forgotten in a basement of New York's Morgan Library--were unwittingly dispersed during World War II. Many others were destroyed and some were sold as junk. Although the Prints and Photographs Division does not hold any of the few existing original glass negatives, copy negatives for many of the photographic prints have been made by the Library's Photoduplication Service.

Images from each of the geo-cultural regions documented in The North American Indian are represented in the collection: the Pacific Northwest, New Southwest, Great Basin, Great Plains, Plateau Region, California, and Alaska. Included are both studio and field photographs. A large number are individual or group portraits, and many subjects are identified by name. Other subjects include traditional and ceremonial dress, dwellings and other structures, agriculture, arts and crafts, rites and ceremonies, dances, games, food preparation, transportation, and scenery.


The Library of Congress staff organized the photographs into twenty-two groups (LOTs 12310 through 12331) primarily by geographical area and thereunder by tribal group and, when a Curtis number exists, numerically by the number Curtis assigned to the image. One LOT comprised of 11" x 14" and larger photographs was grouped together because of size and represents a number of different tribes (LOT 12331). A complete alphabetical list of tribal groups represented in the collection, followed by corresponding LOT number and corresponding North American Indian volume number is available in the Appendix found at the end of this document. It is also available in the Curtis finding aid in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room.

NOTE: This collection is free and open to the public.

Against the Wind

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Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is pleased to announce its "virtual" exhibition on the traditions of Native American running. This exhibit is shown on-line and not in physical space such as a gallery. The use of computer network technology to present this exhibit, makes it accessible to anyone with Internet access.

Reading List
American Indian Running Traditions

Compiled by Juliette Rogers

Click on the title links below for availability information at the University of Minnesota Libraries

Baudin, Louis. A Socialist Empire: The Incas of Peru Princeton: Van Nostrand Company, Inc. 1961.

Brown, Kenneth A. Four Corners: History, Land, and People of the Dessert Southwest. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.

Brundage, Burr Cartwright. Empire of the Inca. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963

Bull, Amos Bad Heart. A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967.

Caduto, Michael J. and Bruchac, Joseph. Keepers of the Night. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1994.

Derderian, Tom. Boston Marathon. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers, 1994.

Erdoes, Richard, and Ortiz, Alfonso. American Indian Myths and Legends. New York, Pantheon, 1984.

Ferguson, T. J. A Zuni Atlas. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.

Goodman, James M. The Navajo Atlas. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.

Higdon, Hal. Boston: A Century of Running. Emmaus PA: Rhodale Press, Inc, 1995.

Landes, Ruth. The Ojibwa Woman. New York: AMS Press. 1938.

LeGay, Gilbert. Atlas of Indians of North America. New York: Barrons, 1995.

McClintock, Walter. Old Indian Trails. London: Constable and Company, Ltd., 1923.

McClintock, Walter. The Old North Trail. London: MacMillin and Co, 1910.

McKee, Jesse O. and Schlenker, Jon A. The Choctaws. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1980.

Myer, William E. Indian Trails of the Southeast.

Nabokov, Peter. Indian Running. Santa Fe: Ancient City Press, 1981.

Opler, Morris Edward. Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians. New York: Dover Publications, 1994.

Oxendine, Joseph B. American Indian Sports Heritage. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

Pastor, C. Macedo y. Disquisiciones Filologicas sobre terminos miticos de los Incas. Lima: Gil, 1939.

Speck, Frank G. Penobscot Man. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1940.

Stevenson, Mathilda Coxe. The Zuni Indians. Glorietta, NM: Rio Grande Press, Inc: 1985.

Underhill, Ruth. Singing for Power. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 1938.

Underhill, Ruth. Life in the Pueblos. Santa Fe: Ancient City Press, 1991.

Vennum, Thomas. American Indian Lacrosse. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.

Waldman, Carl. Timelines of Native American History. New York: Prentice Hall, 1994.

Wallace, Paul A. W. Indian Paths of Pennsylvania. Harrisburg: The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1971.

This exhibition highlights American Indian dress designs and designers from the Great Plains, Great Basin, and Plateau regions. Features zoomable images, photos, maps, animated illustrations, video clips, and more. The introduction includes profiles of designers who contributed knowledge to the exhibit. From the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.


Identity by Design: Tradition and Celebration in Native Women's Dresses at the University of Minnesota Libraries


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