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November 23, 2009

Telling the Story: Illuminating Native Heritage through Photography


Choctaw Man, Jim Tubby, 1908, Mark Raymond Harrington (Photographer),
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, P12169

In celebration of American Indian Heritage Month, NMAI's Photo Archives has posted a blog entry, Telling the Story: Illuminating Native Heritage through Photography, to the Smithsonian's Photo Initiative (SPI) blog, The Bigger Picture. The article, by Lou Stancari, highlights the use of photography by early MAI collectors, such as Frank G. Speck and Frederick M. Johnson, and how photos and objects together document and tell the story of Native Peoples of the Western Hemisphere. These images were recently contributed to the NMAI's Collections search and the Smithsonian Flickr Commons photostream. Please take a look and post comments to the blog.

Comments (17)

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I love American Indian Heritage. Glad you are doing this to help preserve whatever we can.

Thats an amazing photograph.

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Great news thank you.

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Great photograph, great work.

Nice posting, will be a reference for me for sure. Thanks for posting!

Nice update about American Indian Heritage. It is great art of work. I really appreciate this.

Thanks for the news.I will visit this website hereafter for more updated news.Keep posting.

Amazing photo!

By the way, I would like to ask who wrote this. It is a very nice article and informative. I would like to subscribe to your RSS.

I just wanted to say thank you for inspiring me to enter a contest sponsored by the National Archives that used an image of the NMAI exterior combined with an 1892 archives image of Shoshone Indians at Ft. Washakie, Wyoming.

Here is the link to the image that I created:


If you like it, I sure would appreciate your vote.

Thanks again for this great resource. I can't wait to get to D.C. to visit in person!

Nice update about American Indian Heritage.
Thanks again for this great resource.
nice job

Good job with the American Indian Heritage history, Keep it up

Great Job, There should be more like this about American Indian History


Nice update about American Indian Heritage. It is great art of work. I really appreciate this.

Nice posting. Thank you! :-)

Thanks for the post!

All my mother's photos are like the above one and they seems more beautiful than my modern digital photos.

November 19, 2009

The IndiVisible Memory Book


The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) are co-sponsoring IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas, a traveling exhibit about people of mixed African American and Native American heritage. Do you have a story to tell about your family's Native and African American ancestry? Please visit the NMAAHC Memory Book and share your experience.

The IndiVisible Memory Book can be found at http://nmaahc.si.edu/tag/indivisible. Once you have created an account on the NMAAHC sign-up page, you can add your own memory to the Memory Book by going to the overview page and clicking Share Your Memory.

James Austin ("Pap") Wiley, born in 1872 in Hamburg, Arkansas, was the son of Ellen, a black Cherokee born in Alabama about 1855. Photo courtesy of the Branton family.

Comments (7)

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the reevey family of afro native people is very large in new jersey they named a town after them and have land that been in the family for generations,my mother is one of them

We are Arawak/Chickamauga natives whose grandparents spoke Spanish. Go figure that! Anyhow we kept our heritage a secret from non-natives because we natives were always the butt of jokes. Proud to be mixed heritage. It is who I am!

Citizenship Verses Heritage
Cherokee People have struggled for centuries to survive and maintain their distinct identities as citizens of the Cherokee Nation. Today we face a dangerous assault on our tribal sovereignty from a proliferation of fraudulent groups attempting to claim the same treaty rights and obligations that rightfully belong to the true historic Indian nations.
Everyone has the right to their family heritage. However, “heritage” and “citizenship” are not always the same, and should not be confused or used interchangeably.
To be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, at least one of your direct ancestors had to have publicly proclaimed their citizenship at the time of the Dawes Commission Rolls (1906). All others gave up their right and those of their descendants to Cherokee Nation citizenship. The Cherokee Nation Government establishes the criteria for citizenship.
To be more specific in our history, the “Eastern Cherokee Nation” and “Western Cherokee Nation,” including the “Old Settlers” and “Late Immigrants,” joined together in an Act of Union, July 12, 1839. There are no ‘lost’ Cherokee Tribes or splinter groups that hid out or wandered off the Trail of Tears.
Some groups attempt to appropriate the collective rights of genuine Indian nations; they can inflect great harm on the very people they are pretending to be. You can honor your heritage by learning about the history, culture and language of your ancestors, but citizens of Indian nations have rights and civic responsibilities to their nations that should not be infringed upon or imitated.
There are only three Federally-recognized Cherokee Tribes: The Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians both located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina (www.cherokee-nc.com).
Organizations rightfully claiming an association with the Cherokee Nation via Tribal Citizens At Large Groups, visit our web site www.cherokee.org and go to ‘Organization’ and then ‘Cherokee Communities.’ The Cherokee Nation does not question anyone’s claims of heritage, but merely points out the significant difference between claiming heritage and having citizenship in a federally recognized Indian tribe. For more information contact Cherokee Nation at (918)453-5000 and http://tribalrecognition.cherokee.org.

Oh, Cherokee Nation...you never fail to disappoint me.

Anyway, IndiVisible...continue rocking on!

ok, thanks for share great information of indiVisible Memory Book, I will visit the NMAAHC Memory Book.


ok, thanks for share great information of indiVisible Memory Book, I will visit the NMAAHC Memory Book.

Guess who's coming to dinner Chief Smith. Oh Cherokee nation make room in the cave wink, wink.

November 18, 2009

Snapshots of Transition: Native American Reservation Life in the Early 1900s


Chiricahua Apache women from the sewing society work on a quilt together. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, N53228.

In celebration of American Indian Heritage Month, NMAI's Photo Archives has posted a blog entry, Snapshots of Transition: Native American Reservation Life in the Early 1900s, to the Smithsonian's Photo Initiative (SPI) blog, The Bigger Picture. The article, by Emily Moazami, highlights a collection of photographs, by Reverend James O. Arthur, recently contributed to the NMAI's Collections search and the Smithsonian Flickr Commons photostream. Please take a look and post comments to the blog. A second entry will post next week highlighting fieldwork photography and the object collection.

Comments (51)

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I am interested to know what advantage there has been if any in setting aside reservations for Native Americans ?

Do they have their own legal system applicable to their own people there?

Do they have control over their own people? Do they have their own health care etc

Wow your writing skill is very nice Laughing I couldn't agree more about there tips. They are very interesting and usefull for me.
I think I must visit your blog regular to get more ideas and more tips for learning.
Thanks alot!
Toan Nguyen Minh
Make Money Online

The development of this nation created any number of legally binding agreements and laws to guarantee the authority of tribal governments. American needs to honor those agreements and commitments each day of the year. American Indian Heritage Month allows us to, as a nation, reflect on the contributions of Native Americans and to acknowledge our responsibilities to continue to meet obligations that were created as America emerged as a new nation.

it's amazing to me that there are not more resources to learn about the real history of our nation.

most of the information I have run across is not very informative on the subject.

thanks for posting the photos.

Awesome information on early 19th century Photography this is a great post for aspiring photographers

Very vintage and interesting shot! Thanks for sharing...


This is a really interesting piece on lives of Native Indians in the 1900s, that picture is truly incredibly, I'm quite moved by it.

Native American author Gertrude Simmons Bonnin won a scholarship to the Boston and was a strong political voice for Native Americans in the early 1900s.

This is the first entry in a series celebrating National Native American Heritage Month. In this series we will be highlighting photos from the National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Photo Archives that were recently contributed to NMAI’s Collections Search and the Smithsonian Flickr Commons photostream. NMAI holds a diverse photograph collection of over 90,000 ethnohistoric images, which range from daguerreotypes to digital images, and is considered one of the most significant collections of American Indian images.

thanks for good subject

I am writing to you from Peru, I always admired the American Indians, for their faith and courage to defend their territories. the spirit of freedom still remains. Beautiful post.

It's always cool to see old pics and see how people lived back in the day.

Love these American Indian Photos.. a lot like the "Images of America" series that has catalogued almost every city in the US.. its a great look back into our history.

I am studying photography, and as I am researching about some old American photos, I found this as amazing. It is really incredible photo! Thanks :)


Stumbled across this, it would be nice if you could upload more pictures Natives in the early 1900s.

Interesting photography... When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls! I heard this somewhere. It's not really like that when you're shooting weddings!

Amazing how images from this era have such an unsettling feeling to them. Probably due to the long exposures/uncomfortable posing situations.
Either way, its cool to have a glimpse into the past like this!


I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and always enjoyed studying Native American Cultures. It's really sad to see the state of affairs on some of the reservations.

Black and photos really tell the story huh? I love turning portraits into black and white but quite a few people snub their nose at it. I really envy the photographers that shoot for National Geographic.

It is inspiring to see photos that are taken years ago. What makes it more interesting is the fact that the women here are helping hand in hand in working on the quilt. Thanks for posting this.

Beautiful image that captures family life, and I love how it's in black and white. It makes no difference what type of photography you do, we're image magicians, great work.

I am actually writing an expository essay in college and came across this picture while doing research. Absolutely incredible!

Native American reservations make me sad. The photo just has a "sad" feel to it. Thanks for sharing, look forward to seeing more.


Some beautiful old school black and white photography there. Work like this has a certain character that today's polished digital shots just seem to lack. It's funny to note both the similarities and gaping differences between work like this and then work like mine, for example (I hope you don't mind my linking a picture of a Thai fishing lady I took a few years ago):


It's the top middle shot.

I can't help but think it looks shiny and fake in comparison...however I still like it :)

It's always cool to see old pics and see how people lived back in the day.

i've been in canada and i saw many controversial opinion about the natives american.. just about nowdays. I think is good idea to show the path of trasformation of these cultures.
Now i'm in Mexico, travelling all around and i'm try to write something about the traformation of the "Mexica" culture.
There are too many incomplete information.
Soon i gonna post a video about the izcateopan meeting of thousands sundancer in http://www.longwalk.it

This is a great piece of history, amazingly the picture quality is awesome.

Funny to know they took sewing seriously back then.

This is beautiful photography.

Very interesting is the history of Native Americans!
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Indians in the U.S. were crammed into reservations. They stood there under the control of government officials. This set of laws had the task to control the use of the land, and tribal funds deposited and disbursed from the contractually guaranteed pensions. In the distribution of supplies allocated to the Indians there were a number of scandals, because corrupt agents terrorized the Indians, cheated them or bought them with bribes for their land. In 1905, the government managed to defeat by a large-scale reform of the Indian Service corruption. In 1911, the American Indian Society was founded for the protection and preservation of Native American culture.

I just found your blog while searching for articles about Native American culture. Very informative post and useful links to the full photo collection. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Very cool .


It truly is amazing how one photo really can say a thousand words. I love how this shows the family dynamic back then and how it is different from today.

Wow, I'm honestly surprised at how great the picture quality of this photo is.

There's a great sense of community you get from this picture that I think should be more present in today's society.

It's always cool to see old pics and see how people lived back in the day.

Thanks for creating such a wonderful site. this site was not only knowledgeable but also very stimulating too.The collection of photography Smithsonian in Flickr really nice. We find very few people who can think to create not so easy articles that creatively.

This is an amazing site and I'm looking forward to taking more time looking at everything. A photo can tell a wonderful story.

I would have to agree with a previous comment about the quality of the picture itself.

Has it been enhanced at all for clarity?

It really does show a different side and time in our culture.

Ella Lu
Photographer, Orlando

This is where the commencement of modern American civilization. an explicit expression of appreciation to fairness and equality, a reflection of strong democracy. A very nice photo and very inspiring.


Black and white photos you have is really great. Another thing I can't miss noticing is that the surrounding environment seems very clean.


It was nice to have found this blog on the early pictures of the Native American Indians. I am a photographer who specializes in wedding photography in Miami Fl and would of love to have seen some wedding pictures of the Native American. I was raised in Haiti where it was the very fist land that Christopher Columbus set his foot to the new world and came in with his conquistador. We unfortunately do not have any pictures of them because the Spanish had enslaved them and had killed them for gold. I am so glad to see Native Indians celebrating their existence.

very informative site. the photos substantially keeps the present generation closer to history.

Viewing old images is like turning back in time. They're so expressive (at least in what concerns me)

Anyway, enjoyed looking at this 100 years old picture and reading about life in the 1900s.

Barry (Macrame and vintage enthusiast)

Indians took part in a series of trance-inducing rituals and dancing, believing that they would one day bring back their old way of life and traditions and eliminate the whites. The strength and numbers of the Americans made this a dream unlikely to be fulfilled, but kept the flame of the American Indian culture alive.

I appreciate the work you share with us.

This is such a wonderful and fine blog.

I hope you don't stop on sharing your work.

This is one of the best site I found.

A very informative blog.

Ritual dancing is deep stuff. My uncle is into it and he swears by it.

In America you call them reservations, in South Africa we called them homelands, same poverty, same terrible living standards. We have got rid of them!

November 13, 2009

Lipstick Traces

  Master of the Fade. Kid of Kid 'n Play. (Image retrieved here.)

Christopher "Kid" Reid of Kid 'n Play, a hip-hop duo which had its heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was perhaps best distinguished by his towering high-top fade, a hair-do defined by its short hair on the sides and long hair on the top, usually cut with great geometric precision. When Brian Jungen's Crux (as seen from those who sleep on the surface of the earth under the night sky) was hung in the main rotunda of NMAI, in front of the large bank of windows, we were worried about another kind of fade, that of the discoloration of the plastics by exposure to UV (ultraviolet) and visible light. As a precaution, a film that blocked UV and some visible light was placed on the windows. While these measures were taken, we still wanted to understand what kind of fading to expect from these plastics under exposure to visible light.

This can be done! With a technology called the microfader tester (MFT). It’s science in action.

If you walk across the National Mall from NMAI, you may stumble upon the National Gallery of Art (which will be hosting a workshop for teachers about Mr. Jungen’s work in February 2010). Down in the Scientific Research Department, you’ll find conservation scientist Dr. Christopher Maines. He is in possession of a microfader tester. And he’s really good at using it, which is no easy feat.

Master of Fade.
Dr. Christopher Maines with the MFT and a sample of plastic from Crux luggage.

The MFT is used to detect light-sensitivity and lightfastness of the materials, which comprise your museum object. It does this without leaving visible evidence of the test on the object. The MFT has a light source, only tenths of a millimeter in diameter, filtered of UV and infrared light, which is directed at an area on the surface of the object. The reflected light from the surface of the object transfers through a spectrophotometer, which measures the color change and fading over a period of several minutes. This is compared with fading and lightfastness standards. Thus the MFT can determine a rate of fading over a short period, leaving virtually no trace on the actual object, and giving us a better sense of how light stable the object is, and if, for how long, and under what conditions it should be on display. Pretty neat.

The MFT can be used on all sorts of materials. Take, for example, lipstick. Namely artist Frida Kahlo’s lipstick. She liked her S.W.A.K.s and had a tendency to sign off her letters with lipsticked kisses. Germaine Greer did not call her “Patron Saint of Lipstick and Lavender Feminism” for nothing. In the collection of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, there is a letter from Frida to Emmy Lou Packard regarding Frida’s husband Diego Rivera’s health and other business. Frida signs the letter with multiple lipsticked kisses, along the bottom edge, one in each box for each of her objects of affection.

Most companies say their lipsticks are made to last. (“Stay supple, stay true… Of course they last.”) But could Frida’s lipstick stand being on museum display? Using the MFT, Dr. Maines working with Nora Lockshin, the paper conservator from Archives of American Art, determined that the lipstick was actually incredibly light sensitive and if overexposed by visible light, the lipstick’s vibrancy would quickly diminish. Display would have to be for very short duration, in a highly controlled setting, or not displayed at all. Luckily for us, digital images are readily accessible.

The letter. (Image retrieved here.)

(Frida Kahlo was prolific with her kisses. Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Library has a lipstick-laden note as well. Here you can read more lipstick preservation, as related to that note and artist Rachel Lachowicz, known for her use of cosmetics in her work.)

But back to luggage, briefly. We took five samples of luggage plastic from Crux over to Dr. Maines, who generously ran the MFT on the samples.  It turns out, the plastics are rather resilient to fading, perhaps even more so than expected, but will fade if continually exposed to visible light for long periods. So good we put up the window film. We wouldn’t want to see the crocodile or its compatriots go pale.


Comments (11)

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Hey I like the lipstick effect it looks pretty cool.

You learn something new every day! I've never heard of the MFT... but the Kid from Kid 'n Play reference was a nice touch, hahaha. =)

Hi! I like your article , I would like very much to read some more information on MFT


really enjoyed the post and the information good job thanks.

I found your post while searching Google. it offers a lot of really great content so thank you for sharing. I will have to check it out more often.

Kid surely did get busted that time :) found this on google and its a great read

Hmmm interesting MFT. Nice! I'm going to dig more about it because I have a great sample in mind. :) Thanks!

Michelle Porter

Very nice blog. You've done a great job for this one.
Thank you for this information.

It article information is good information job.i like this your article.

Didn't know until now about the existance of such a sophisticated instrument as the MFT. The "rate of fading" is an interesting concept. Too bad the video is not available anymore.


Thanks for sharing this information, love this subject! :)