Opening Reception for Edward S. Curtis’ “The North American Indian” photographs, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2. The Cody Library will be first to host the Buffalo Bill Center of the West traveling exhibit. Selections from the Curtis folio will be displayed for the month of February. Exhibit Catalog.
The exhibit features pieces from Edward S. Curtis’ The North American Indian, a grand work that provides a permanent record of 80 North American tribes through ethnographic notes and over 1500 photographs included in 20 volumes. Accompanying the volumes were 20 portfolios containing 36 photogravure prints each. A selection of these images in digital format will be on display.
Curtis produced this unique American record at great personal sacrifice. Beginning 1898 he traveled the American West from the Rio Grande to the Arctic Circle. Working with written accounts, photographic images and sound recordings, Curtis gathered and arranged the ethnographic data and took more than 40,000 photographs using only natural light.
The massive work was published between 1907 and 1930. The elegant volumes with their stately folio plates were printed on the finest handmade papers of the time. Sadly, the Great Depression contributed to weak sales of the finished volumes, and only 214 of the 500 subscriptions were sold.
Timothy Egan, author of Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, says of the work: “The great goal of the monumental photographic achievement of Edward Curtis was to make the First Americans “live forever,” as he said. This man, with his 6th grade education and lifelong devotion to his subject, did just that. His pictures of all the tribes in the West are timeless, showing the humanity of a people who were too often stereotyped or forgotten.”
This exhibit is funded by a grant from Wyoming Community Foundation’s Carol McMurry Donor Advised Fund in partnership with the McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, which holds a rare complete set of The North American Indian. It will travel to Wyoming libraries in 2017 and 2018 to celebrate the Center’s 100th anniversary.