Edward S. Curtis Discovery & Events Pt. 8

Edward S. Curtis - Aged Pomo woman. 1924.
Aged Pomo woman by Edward S. Curtis. 1924.

Edward S. Curtis discovery surprise

It was assumed that all of Edward S. Curtis’ photogravure copper plates were lost or destroyed. It’s common practice to destroy the plates after the initial printing so more can’t be made. However, many were sold to the Charles E. Lauriat Company in Boston. In 1972, decades after he passed away, there was a Edward S. Curtis discovery surprise. A treasure trove of Curtis’ work was discovered in the Lauriat basement by photographer Karl Kernberger. This cache included 19 complete bound sets of The North American Indian, thousands of paper prints, copper plates, unbound pages, and the original glass plate negatives. It’s important to realize how significant this discovery was. This collection subsequently passed through several hands. In 2005, Kenneth Zerbe purchased the copper plates. New prints were eventually made from the plates. However, they aren’t printed on the high quality Van Gelder paper favored by Curtis.

Contemporary Native Americans

In recent times, Christopher Cardozo has launched a repatriation project to return some of Curtis’ works to Native American people. As a result of this work, we now know the names of 3,500 people featured in the photographs.

Three contemporary Native American photographers, and their responses to Edward S. Curtis’ work, will be the subject of an upcoming exhibit. The exhibit runs from February 6, 2016 to May 8, 2016 at the Portland Art Museum. Photographs from Zig Jackson, Wendy Red Star, and Will Wilson will be featured in the exhibit.

Each artist responded in different ways to the Curtis photographs. Zig Jackson noted that people still “take” a photograph of Native Americans. He even pokes a little fun at this concept in one of his pictures entitled Indian Photographing Tourist Photographing Indian. Several volumes of The North American Indian will also be displayed in the upcoming exhibit. Digitized versions of Curtis’ original audio recordings of native language and song will be a part of the exhibit. The Museum is also trying to crowdsource a way for descendants of people featured in The North American Indian to be able to input information about themselves and their ancestors.

Photo by Edward S. Curtis in this article from the following source: http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/index.html

Posts in this series:

Edward S. Curtis Fever in Bend, Oregon

Edward S. Curtis Photo Techniques & Artistic Movements Pt. 2

Edward S. Curtis History – Childhood to Businessman Pt. 3

Edward S. Curtis’ Mission – A History (continued) Pt. 4

Edward S. Curtis’ life of twists & turns Pt. 5

Edward S. Curtis’ Film – In the Land of the Head-Hunters – Pt. 6

Controversy surrounding Edward Curtis & documentary – Pt. 7

Edward S. Curtis Discovery & Events Pt. 8

Edward S. Curtis Conclusions – Pt. 9