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April 6, 1993

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Offers New Access to 3,500 Native American Images

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress recently completed the processing and cataloging of 3,500 images of American Indians photographed over an 85-year period ending in the 1940s. The images are now accessible to researchers in the division's reading room in the Library's Madison building in Washington.

The earliest image in the collection is dated 1863; most were made between 1890 and 1920.

Nearly all of the photographs were produced for commercial purposes and were deposited in the Library for copyright protection. Well-known photographers represented in the collection include Edward S. Curtis and his brother Asahel, David F. Barry, Frank Bennett Fiske, Richard Throssel, Charles Gentile, the firm of Heyn & Matzen, Ben Wittick, Carl Moon, A. Zeno Shindler, Walter McClintock, Elsa Spear Edwards, and Katherine Taylor Dodge. This collection complements the Library's extensive collection of Edward S. Curtis photographs used in his celebrated 20-volume The North American Indian , published between 1907 and 1930. The Edward S. Curtis Collection numbers more than 1,600 photographs.

Most of the newly available photographs are silver gelatin prints. The collection abounds in formal and informal portraits of individuals and groups. Other images depict ceremonies, dances, games, domestic tasks, objects, and structures. Many tribal leaders are portrayed, including Geronimo, Red Cloud, Rain in the Face, Chief Joseph, Plenty Coups, Quanah Parker, and American Horse. Numerous North American tribes are represented; there are hundreds of images of Plains, Southwestern and Northwestern tribes as well as of the Inuit peoples.

Among notable subjects are Carlisle (Pa.) Indian School portraits and scenes; early 20th-century images of the Crow Fair, which continues as an annual event in Montana; and portraits of Northwestern Native Americans appearing at exhibitions, including the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. Portraits and scenes of Native American performers and Wild West shows are included. One important series--a rare 1870 album of photographs by Charles Gentile--contains 41 views of Arizona and portraits of Arizona peoples.

The photographs have been arranged in 255 groups or lots. A catalog record for each can be found online in the Library of Congress's bibliographic data base, in the Visual Materials file. The file may be searched by title, subject, place, or name. The catalog record also has been distributed nationwide via MARC tapes to other bibliographic networks. As of late April, the Library of Congress's automated information files are available online throughout the world through INTERNET.

While there is no printed list of these holdings, specific queries can be addressed to: Reference Staff, Prints and Photographs Division Reading Room, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540. Advance appointments should be made for the study of this collection, as well as for other holdings in the division. The Madison Building is located at 101 Independence Ave., S.E. Hours for research in this division are 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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PR 93-045
ISSN 0731-3527

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