Unpublished Curtis Photographs on Display at Pawnee Site

Unpublished Curtis Photographs on Display at Pawnee Site

Famous for "The North American Indian" project, Curtis had large selection of photos never published.

Unpublished photographs from the works of historical photographer Edward S. Curtis, famous for his 20-volume set of books titled The North American Indian, published between 1907 and 1930 will be on display at Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site.

Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs of at least 80 American Indian tribes for The North American Indian. Several photographs that were not included in the set were recently made available to the public. 

A large selection of these unpublished photos will be on display at the Museum until September 1. Admission is $5 adults, $1 students. Kansas Historical Foundation members and children five and younger admitted free.

An example of Edward Curtis's work, "Cañon de Chelly – Navaho", taken in northeast Arizona.

The site is located at 480 Pawnee Trail, eight miles north of U.S. 36 on K-266 near Republic. For more information, call 785-361-2255, or visit kshs.org/pawnee_indian.

Of the Curtis work, the Kansas State Historical Society's "memory" site says:
"The North American Indian--expensively produced and issued in a severely limited edition over a long period--could not prove popular. But in recent years anthropologists and others, even when they have censured what they have assumed were Curtis' methodological assumptions or quarreled with the text's conclusions, have begun to appreciate the value of the project's achievement: exhibitions have been mounted, anthologies of pictures have been published, and The North American Indian has been increasingly cited in the researches of others. There has been a reprint edition of the entire work, a valuable paperbound reprint of all the large-size photogravures, and there will doubtless be scholarly editions of parts of The North American Indian complete with annotation incorporating the findings of more recent authorities.


The text is rich. Curtis stated that the objective of The North American Indian was to depict "all features of Indian life and environment … the young and the old, with their habitations, industries, ceremonies, games, and everyday customs," and to this list could be added such matters as the history, religion, mythology, and stories of each people. In my opinion it meets the stated objective, and it is written with vigor and--whether descriptive or analytical in kind--considerable flair. On occasion it includes data--linguistic, or ethnographic, or historical--to be found nowhere else. Sometimes its data provide useful qualification or supplementation of other authorities. Always, it has something interesting to tell. Needless to say, the nature of ethnographic investigation and, especially, writing has been a matter of much heated theoretical debate. We have to accept that, in a variety of ways, anthropology does not simply record indigenous people; it constructs them. But I for one am prepared to accept, without too much hesitation, the project's claim that all its data were derived from or checked against what Indians "in the field" told Myers and associates. That is, The North American Indian is not monolithic or merely a monument. It is alive, it speaks, if with several voices, and among those perhaps mingled voices are those of otherwise silent or muted Indian individuals."

About the Pawnee Nation
The Pawnee Nation was the dominant power of the Central Plains for hundreds of years. This museum tells the story of a Pawnee village that may have existed as early as the 1770s. The most remarkable feature is the museum's centerpiece—the excavated floor of a large Pawnee earth lodge. Feel the spirits of the past while walking the perimeter of the lodge and view the rare sacred bundle that hangs above the entrance.

After touring the museum, walk the interpretive trail that winds through the depressions marking other lodges. The museum is one of 16 state historic sites operated by the Kansas Historical Society, a state agency.

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