Currently viewing the tag: "Photo Print Collection"
Four Sakhalin Ainu Women circa mid-1950s

Ainu Women in Traditional Attire - Click image to view full.

A mere half-century separates the Ainu from the picture in the previous post to the ones featured here, yet on closer observation, it is easy to tell that things are starting to change as old traditions die out.

Of the four women, only the oldest, second from the right, is seen with the traditional facial tattoo, called anchi-piri (anchi, “obsidian”; piri, “cut”). Facial tattooing, or any tattoos for that matter, was strictly a rite of passage for Ainu women – one that commenced early in childhood, and once finished, signified that the young girl was now a woman ready to be married. In an attempt to force the Ainu into becoming fully immersed into Japanese society, the tradition of tattooing was banned in the late 1800s.

As for the picture seen here, not much is known about it except that was taken in Hokkaido sometime in the 1950s by German explorer Robert Austerlitz.

I would like my last blog post to show some of the trove of photographs from the Boas collection for which I had created a finding aid which demonstrate his interest in Africa. Two photographs taken by Jesse Tarbox Beals at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair show two African boys next to a frame structure with a monkey. My mind fills with questions about how the children were brought here, what their experience was and what they thought of it all. I am sobered by the content of some of these materials and hope to see how they will be given context by researchers now that they are accessible.
I have learned so much in my stay here from the staff who have helped me, my fellow interns and the materials themselves.

I am working on a finding aid for an anonymous group of photographs from Africa. Because it has no provenance it has posed some challenges in terms of providing context but has a wealth of interesting images. Grouped with a set of printed postcards from Dakar is a lone snapshot of a young woman with a moving note on the back saying, “She is a ‘Hunter Tribe’ woman. My small house boy’s sister – her new baby was 2 days old. She walked 6 miles to show me.” There is no way to know when it was taken but it immediately brings to mind the many personal interactions that must have been part of these museum expeditions, and highlights how the visitors to Africa must have provided their own exotic experience to the people they visited.

I got the chance to do some exciting detective work for my finding aid of African photographs. I had a picture of sculpture that looked very much like a Benin bronze but we had no definitive proof. Barbara suggested I look for it in the Hall of African Peoples and after a quick pass I found it on view, and was surprised to find it was one of a pair used as bases for huge elephant tusks. Because it has the same visible number painted on the side we are able to say it is the same artifact. Later I realized I could have found a picture of the bronze ‘in situ’ with the ‘on view’ filter of the anthropology database, a great source for tracking down mysterious objects.

(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!

The majority of my time today was spent on researching the Crocker Land Expedition by reading materials from the main stacks and vertical files. From this I learned that the 73 photographs I am working with are a tiny selection of the 5,500 photographs that were taken during the four years the team was in the arctic. I also learned the expedition faced numerous hardships; starting with the death of George Borup, who would have been one of the co-leaders with Donald MacMillan. The trip was postponed for one year and a larger team was assembled before the S.S. “Diana” set sail in July 1913. Unfortunately, the team would not enjoy smooth sailing (no pun intended) from here, as “Diana” struck rocks off the coast of Labrador. A second ship had to be commissioned for the remainder of the trip; however, the delay made it impossible for the team to reach their desired destination in northern Greenland because winter was nearing. In 1914, it was discovered that Crocker Land was nothing more than a mirage. Efforts to retrieve the team from Etah, Greenland began in 1915 but were complicated due to the harsh conditions. Part of the team returned to New York in 1916 on the S.S. “Cluett.” MacMillan and two others remained in Etah for another year because they were still in the field when the “Cluett” departed.

I began to fill out the Finding Aid Worksheet and a preliminary draft of the Finding Aid this afternoon, with the information above. Some questions I have for the next time are:

  1. Since none of the photographs are dated and it is unclear at what point in the expedition they were taken, should I list the dates on the container list as “circa 1913-1917?”
  2. I could not find the names of the photographers during my research; however, the catalog record for the larger collection of Crocker Land Expedition photographs identifies MacMillan and Edmund Hovey as the creators. Are they the creators because they were the leaders of the expedition?
  3. And, in the Related Material field, do I list all of the items in the library’s collection that relate to the Crocker Land Expedition?

To answer my question from last time: “Jot” was Jonathan Small, a member of the team from Newfoundland (my grandmother’s birthplace). : )

Today I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with a small collection of photographs from the Crocker Land Expedition, which was sponsored by the AMNH, American Geographical Society, and the University of Illinois. From July 1913 to 1917, a team of scientists traveled to the Arctic with the mission of finding Crocker Land which was believed to be off the coast of northern Greenland. Investigation of the native people, wildlife, foliage, and geology were also goals of the team and they took many photographs to document their work over the four years they were in the Arctic.
To begin the process of ultimately creating a finding aid, I examined the four folders within the box. Each folder represents a series and in one instance there are two subseries contained within separate envelopes. The first series (or series A) consists of four photographs of the team and their provisions prior to departure from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Since they were traveling to such a forbidding region, the amount of supplies needed is truly astounding. It was also interesting to see an image of the men prior to leaving New York when they still appear to be urbane gentlemen, not the grizzled Arctic explorers they morph into in later photographs.


Series B is the one with two subseries within it. The separation of these two groups into subseries makes sense. The first envelope primarily contains images of the landscape and is a study of the topography, while the second envelope contains images of the team out in the field and around the headquarters camp. In one particularly harrowing shot, one of the men is descending a glacier with his team of dogs trailing behind him.


Series C and D also contain images of the team; however, the emphasis is on the people, less so on the landscape. Unlike the other series, series C has a few images of the team collecting specimens out in the field. There are also numerous photographs of local Inuit people in ethnographic portraits and in candid shots of them interacting with the team.
One question I’m left with after today is:
Who is “Jot?” His nickname appears several times in the captions.
I look forward to exploring the history of this ill-fated expedition in the coming weeks.

Today I had the chance to look over a collection of anonymous stereographs from a wide-ranging African expedition, 1906-1911, with the goal of writing a finding aid. I am eager to find out, if possible, who wrote the very consistent captions on these photos, most of which are of locations and local people. My only clues are: some of the captions are initialed: VSK, 1911; the person misspelled the word “ant” to read “aunt,” and I wonder if s/he is not a native English speaker; and most importantly there is a photo of Carl Akeley posing with a giraffe head, leading me to wonder if this collection is documentation of his African expedition. Diane led me to a book entitled African Obsession: The life and legacy of Carl Akeley, by Penelope Bodry-Sanders. Skimming the book, I was able to find quite a number of the locations cited in the stereographs, but not a name to match my initials. I am happy to have found a possible link, if not to the collector, then to Akeley’s expedition. It is a great luxury to be able to spend some time in this kind of research.

In addition, there is one photo captioned Duke Abruzzi’s caravan. I found that The Duke d’Abruzzi was a known mountaineer around the turn of the 20th century. One gets a sense of these expeditions linking up or crossing paths as they moved through the continent.

However, the most heart-rending find of the day was a group of images from the Kisubi Mission Station in Uganda devoted to the care of people in the final stages of “sleeping sickness.” One is captioned “a man gone dangerous “ whose “foot is put through a log” presumably to hinder his movements should he become violent. The photo shows that his foot is padded from the roughness of the log, and he has ropes to help him lift it to get around. I am struck by the combined brutality of the shackling and the consideration of protecting his foot from damage and maintaining his mobility.

It has been a productive summer in the AMNH Research Library: 454 collections cataloged in the Photographic Print collection, and 461 collections for the Photographic Slides. That’s over 900 collections recorded for a single term! To our benefit, we did start with some pretty solid inventories, but verifying the data and assessing risk is no small task. Many improvements were made such as adding access points to the subject and contributor fields. Titles, dates, and summaries were revised to be made DACS-compliant. There was even time to do authority work on personal and corporate names. In twelve weeks, I think we accomplished a lot.

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Today we went through the end of Phase 1 and, unbelievably, we also made it through the end of Phase 2. How satisfying. The Photographic Print Collection is now done. Yay!

We came across this cool stereoscopic viewer which allowed us to see the slides in 3D, which included photos of Hawaii and Cambodia. Low-tech Avatar, but it really works.

This summer has been a great learning experience, and we got to see some pretty amazing stuff. Not only in processing the Photographic Print Collection, but through SAA webinars, tours of the diorama renovations and rare book rooms, and the brown bag lunch with Richard T. Fischer.

Lauren will be returning for more museum adventures this fall, but this is Joanna’s farewell. Thank you Iris, Becca, Barbara, Tom, Mai, Greg, and the rest of library staff for everything.