Native American Art and Culture (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

Making Medicine, Making Medicine drawing of mounted hunters pursuing a deer, having flushed a turkey and chicks from cover, 1875. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

The Native American Art and Culture collection has two components. The first consists of more than 10,000 high-resolution images made from historic photographs documenting Native American subjects (portraits, scenes, etc.). These digital images have been made from glass plate negatives collected by or produced under the auspices of the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) beginning in the late 19th century. The BAE photographic collections, supported by extensive documentation, are a foundation for our visual knowledge of the American Indian past. They were critical in shaping perceptions of Native Americans in the last quarter of the 19th century and thereafter and they constitute an unparalleled visual record of historic Native American art and culture. The subjects treated in these photographs range from studio portraits of individual Native Americans to tribal scenes, documenting treaty councils, official expeditions of exploration, and early anthropological and archeological inquiry in America. All major tribal groups are represented, many having been photographed during formal meetings of tribal delegations with members of Congress. The second component of this collection consists of approximately 2,000 Plains Indian ledger drawings. Mostly produced in the middle to late decades of the 19th century, these drawings represent an important indigenous artistic tradition of great and increasing interest to art historians and other scholars. Often done on the pages of ruled ledger books acquired through trade, these works on paper continue a long tradition of painting on buffalo hides and other available media.

These two archives are among the most heavily used resources in the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives. This digital version should be invaluable to art historians, anthropologists, cultural historians, and indeed to all scholars, curators, teachers and students who deal with American and Native American art, history and culture, as well as to scholars engaged with the study of cross-cultural encounters.