(Xa’Niyus or Xixanus) (Bob Harris) wearing Killer Whale headdress (FMNH 85087 Anthropology collection). The Field Museum of Natural History, CSA13597 (probably by staff photographer, Charles Carpenter).

Over the past few weeks I have been sorting through the Franz Boas Photo Collection in order to create a finding aid. I first came across this collection in the summer while working the library’s photographic print collection, but now that I’m taking a closer look at the photos I’m discovering how truly amazing this collection really is.

This collection contains images that Boas had collected over time, taken by a number of different of photographers (both known and unknown). There are very few photos in the collection attributed to Boas himself, most seem to deal with his interest in studying native cultures of the Pacific Northwest.

Out of the four boxes that make up this collection, one is neatly processed with labeled folders, while the other three are much more random. You can see the comparison in the photo below.

At first I was nervous that these three boxes would be difficult to make sense of, but I spent time with Iris this morning to figure out the best arrangement plan for the disorganized boxes. We decided that the provenance of this collection did not really exist anymore, as there was no rhyme or reason to the order of the photos. Our plan is to keep the materials within each box, but to rearrange the photographs in a more orderly fashion. Today I was able to create an initial container list for Box 1 by dividing it into two distinct categories: portraits and field photographs. There are legacy numbering systems on the back of some of the photographs but it is unclear what they represent or how they once helped organize the collection.

I’m looking forward to digging deeper into this collection to see what Mr. Boas has left behind for us!

2 Responses to The Franz Boas Photo Collection

  1. Hi AMNH (Barbara, I hope)

    I was looking for a photo of Franz Boas and the Internet sent me to your page. The photo used on your page for the Franz Boas collection is actually from the Field Museum in Chicago and was taken in the summer of 1904 at our (old) location in Jackson Park. I can send you low res copies of the others in the series, they all have that same painted backdrop with the piano and palm tree. The jpgs I made show the full, uncropped glass negative and you can see the backdrop hanging on rollers. Here’s what I have about the photo:

    CSA13597 (probably by staff photographer, Charles Carpenter)

    (Xa’Niyus or Xixanus) (Bob Harris) wearing Killer Whale headdress (FMNH 85087 Anthropology collection), Wood with movable jaw, flippers and tail. 170cm L. Painted backdrop or background showing a Palm tree plant and piano. Correspondence indicates the painted backdrop was done by [Howard?] Stebbins, a Field Museum staff member.

    • rmorgan says:

      Hi Nina,
      I know Barbara spoke to you but I wanted to say thanks for taking the time to pass on these important details about this image.

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