Search Results for: Edward Curtis

The North American Indian, Edward Curtis

Edward Sheriff Curtis
Inashah – Yakima
copyright 1910, published 1911
Volume 7 Portfolio, Plate 220

In the summer of 2017, the Muskegon Museum of Art exhibited, in its entirety, Edward Curtis’s masterwork The North American Indian. Comprised of 20 volumes of texts and thousands of images, including 723 large format photogravures in accompanying portfolios, The North American Indian recorded the lives, culture, and history of Native American Tribes from the Southwestern, Plains, and Northwestern United States in the early 20th century. For 30 years, Curtis traveled extensively, producing photographs, copious field notes, and wax cylinder recordings. Available by subscription, the project enjoyed initial success but Curtis was bankrupt and forgotten by the time the final volume was published in 1930. The surviving prints and plates were rediscovered in the 1970s, leading to a revival of interest that continues today. The Muskegon Museum of Art’s complete set was obtained in 1907, when Lulu Miller, the librarian of the Hackley Public Library, convinced the Muskegon Board of Education (who governed the library) to subscribe.


Curtis Legacy Foundation Census


Awaiting Return of Snake Dancers Hopi

Modern scholarship reveals many of the flaws of Curtis’s work, products of the prevailing Euro-centric prejudices and attitudes of his time. Curtis’s intention to record and preserve the cultures of Native American Tribes before they vanished under a deliberate campaign by the United States government was commendable and ultimately successful. Ironically, his project also served to codify and perpetuate the dominant stereotypes of the time. As an artist and historian, Curtis staged images, edited contents to reflect his own intentions and pre-existing beliefs, and cloaked much of his product in a veil of romanticism. Curtis’s texts indeed preserved oral history, music, and language that may have otherwise been lost, but the cultural heritage of America’s Native peoples ultimately endured without his efforts, never “vanishing” as predicted by leading scholars of the day.

Self Portrait by Edward S. Curtis, copyright 1889, printed 1907. Photogravure. Collection of the Muskegon Museum of Art. Hackley Picture Fund Purchase. 1983.5.

Video Project: Sharing the Story

It was vitally important to the MMA and guest curator Ben Mitchell that our exhibition reflect not only the history of such a monumental artistic undertaking as The North American Indian but also the full range of controversies that surround it. Working with leading Native Indian scholars, artists, and West Michigan area Tribes, our team developed programming, content, and text that shared the fullest story possible with our viewers, while challenging assumptions and inviting new perspectives. The text developed as part of our exhibition appeared on panels throughout the galleries and was narrated by Ben Mitchell in a series of YouTube videos. As we look back on our successes and forward to our expanding future, these videos remain an important resource to understanding our permanent collection and shared cultural heritage.

You can find the entire series at the links below.

Find all our videos on the Muskegon Museum of Art YouTube channel.




Edward Curtis: Unpublished Alaska

Images for editorial or educational use only.

Edward Curtis and daugher Beth in a kaiak

Reindeer Grazing, Nunivak

Nunivak Man Leaning on Sled Rails

Four Happy Nunivak Women

Ju-kuls (Lena Wesley), Nunivak

Cliff houses on King Island, viewed from Jewel Guard

King Island houses viewed from the rocks below


Diomede Mother and Child

Whale Rib Drying Racks, Diomede

O-la, Noatak

Umiaks Under Sail, Kotzebue


An-e-lik, Selawik

Kilk-ni-sik, in white fur parka, Cape Prince of Wales

John and Coleen Graybill, Curtis Descendents and Authors

Edward S. Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, the Lost Photographs book and slipcover; published 2021

Edward Curtis – Resources

Press Release

The 150th Anniversary of Edward Curtis: 150 Masterpieces from The North American Indian [PDF]

Curtis Census

The purpose of this census is to determine an accurate number of bound sets and volumes of the original edition of The North American Indian. ​Published by Edward Curtis from 1907 to 1930, The North American Indian was planned to be a limited edition of 500 sets. Due to the extremely high cost of the publication and the prolonged publication cycle, it’s thought that no more than 300 complete or partial sets were finally printed. This census will determine, as accurately as possible, the actual number of complete or partial sets that were printed and their present locations. The website also includes research resources. Curtis Census: A Census of the Edward Curtis Masterpiece, The North American Indian

Northwestern University Digital Library Collections

Northwestern University digitized the complete contents of all 20 volumes of The North American Indian, including all 723 portfolio photogravures. View all the photographic plates from Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian online.

Library of Congress Curtis Collection

The Library of Congress Curtis Collection is also a valuable resource.

Press Release

The 150th Anniversary of Edward Curtis: 150 Masterpieces from The North American Indian


Hans Christian Adam, The North American Indian: The Complete Portfolios, Taschen, 2015

Joseph Epes Brown, The North American Indians: A Selection of Photographs by Edward. S. Curtis, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1972

Alfred L. Bush and Lee Clark Mitchell, The Photograph and the American Indian, Princeton University Press, 1994

Christopher Cardozo, Sacred Legacy: Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, Verve Editions, 2000

—— . Edward S. Curtis: The Women, Bullfinch Press, 2005

—— .  Edward S. Curtis: One Hundred Masterworks, Delmonico Books, 2015

A.D. Coleman and T.C. McLuhan, Edward S. Curtis: Portraits from North American Indian Life, Outerbridge and Lazard, 1972

Edward S. Curtis, Indian Life and Indian Lore: Indian Days of Long Ago, Leopold Classic Library, 2016

Barbara A. Davis, Edward S. Curtis: The Life and Times of a Shadow Catcher, Chronicle Books, 1985

Sara Day, Heart of the Circle: Photographs by Edward S. Curtis of Native American Women, Pomegranate Artbooks, 1997

Timothy Egan, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, 2012

Mick Gidley, Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian, Incorporated, Cambridge University Press, 1998

——. The Plains Indian Photographs of Edward S. Curtis, University of Nebraska Press, 2001

——. Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian Project in the Field, University of Oklahoma Press, 2003

Florence Curtis Graybill and Victor Boesen, Edward Sheriff: Visions of a Vanishing Race, Promontory Press, 1976

George Bird Grinnell, The Harriman Expedition: Encountering the Tlingit and Eskimo in 1899, University of Alaska Press, 2007

Don Gulbrandsen, Edward Sheriff Curtis: Visions of the First Americans, Chartwell Book, 2006

Bill Holm and George Irving Quimgy, Edward S. Curtis in the Land of the War Canoes: A Pioneer Cinematographer in the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington Press, 1980

Christopher M. Lyman, The Vanishing Race and Other Illusions: Photographs of Indians by Edward S. Curtis, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982

Anne Makepeace, Edward S. Curtis: Coming to Light, National Geographic, 2001

Johanna Cohan Scherer, Edward S. Curtis, Phaidon Press, 2008

Dan and Mary Soloman, Sites and Structures: The Architectural Photographs of Edward S. Curtis, Chronicle Books, 2000

Steadman Upham and Nat Zappia, The Many Faces of Edward Sheriff Curtis: Portraits and Stories from Native North America, University of Washington Press, 2006

Marianne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher, Simon and Schuster, 2007

Carl Worswick, Edward Curtis: The Master Prints, Arena Editions, 2001

Wayne L. Youngblood, Edward S. Curtis Portraits: The Many Faces of the Native American, Fall River Press, 2009

Shamoon Zamir, The Gift of the Face: Portraiture and Time in Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian, University of North Carolina Press, 2014


Suggested Further Reading

Jane Alison (editor), Native Nations: Journeys in American Photography, Barbican Art Gallery, 1998

Will Baker, Backward: On Indians, Time, And Photography, North Atlantic Books, 1983

Chris Bruce, Myth of the West, Rizzoli International, 1990

Joanna Cohen, The Great Photographs that Reveal North American Indian Life, 1847-1929: From the Smithsonian Institution, Crown Publishers, 1973

Paula Richardson Fleming and Judith Lusky, The North American Indians in Early Photographs, Barnes and Noble Books, 1986

William H. and William N. Goetzmann, The West of the Imagination, W. W. Norton, 1986

Peter B. Hales, William Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American Landscape, Temple University Press, 1988

Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West, W. W. Norton, 1987

Lucy R. Lippard (editor), Partial Recall: Photographs of Native North Americans, The New Press, 1992

Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, 1982

Douglas R. Nickel, Carlton Watkins: The Art of Perception, Harry N. Abrams, 1999

Sally Price, Primitive Art in Civilized Places, University of Chicago Press, 1989

Martha A. Sandweiss, Print the Legend: Photography and the American West, Yale University Press, 2002

Edward Curtis – Online Photo Gallery

Online Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails to view full size images. Images may be reproduced for editorial or educational use only.

Edward S. Curtis: Self-Portrait, 1889

Edward Sheriff Curtis
Chief Joseph – Nez Perce
copyright 1909, published 1911
Volume 8 Portfolio, Plate 256

Edward Sheriff Curtis
Luzi – Papago
copyright 1907, published 1908
Volume 2 Portfolio, Plate 53

Edward Sheriff Curtis
Wife of Modoc Henry – Klamath
copyright 1923, published 1924
Volume 13 Portfolio, Plate 445

Edward Sheriff Curtis
Inashah – Yakima
copyright 1910, published 1911
Volume 7 Portfolio, Plate 220

Edward Sheriff Curtis
Princess Angeline
copyright 1899, published 1913
Volume 9 Portfolio, Plate 314

Edward S. Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, The Lost Photographs Traveling Exhibition

 Traveling Exhibition

The Muskegon Museum of Art is proud to present, in partnership with the Curtis Legacy Foundation, Edward S. Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, The Lost Photographs. The exhibition features over one hundred previously      unpublished images from Edward Curtis’s voyage to Alaska   in 1927, the final expedition needed to complete his epic work, The North American Indian. Risking dangerous seas and fierce storms, Curtis visited some                                                                                                        of the most remote locations in Alaska to record the                                                                                                            lives and images of Native Alaskans. Excerpts from the                                                                                                        journals of Curtis and his daughter Beth supplement the                                                                                                      photographs.

            Cliff Houses on King Island


      On June 8, 1927, Edward Sherriff Curtis, accompanied by daughter Beth Curtis and newly employed Stewart C. Eastwood, set sail on the steamer ship Victoria towards Nome, Alaska. The purpose of their voyage was to complete the photography and research for the final, 20th volume of Curtis’s masterwork, The North American Indian. Begun in 1895, The North American Indian was the defining passion of Curtis’s life, an attempt to record, in writing and photography, the lives of the Indigenous Peoples of the United States west of the Mississippi. This trip, planned for a single season, would be the final voyage to complete his epic quest. Curtis took hundreds of images on his journey, only part of which were ultimately published. The rest sat, unseen, passed down through the family until today.

Edward Curtis: Alaska, The Lost Photographs presents, for the first time to the public, images made from the unused original negatives. 112 images comprise the exhibition, along with excerpts from the personal journals of Curtis and his daughter Beth that describe their often                                                                                         harrowing adventures in the Bering Sea. Supplemental text panels                                                                                     describe the history of Alaska and its Native people, placing the Curtis                                                                               photographs into the context of traditional and cultural practices that                                                                                   continue today. This exhibition accompanies the 2021 publication of the                                                                             complete journals by Curtis’s descendants in Edward Curtis:                                                                                               Unpublished Alaska. Copies of the book are available for sale by host                                                                                 venues.

             Edward and Beth on Steamer


Edward S. Curtis: Alaska, The Lost Photographs is organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art in Muskegon, Michigan in partnership with The Curtis Legacy Foundation. 


The exhibition is comprised of 112 framed photographs and framed didactic and introductory panels.  Electronic files for maps and object labels are provided.

            A-bi-ka, Cape Prince of Wales

Space and Installation Requirements

A minimum of 1,500 sq. ft. is recommended.

Fees: The exhibition leasing fee is $10,000 for a 12 week time period. Time periods are flexible based on availability.

Shipping charges are not included in the leasing fee and are the  responsibility of the borrower.

Security Requirements: Medium security. During public hours the exhibition must be under surveillance by trained security personnel or staff. After hours the gallery must, at a minimum, be monitored with electronic security.

Environment & Lighting: Gallery HVAC must be maintained at 70 degrees F +/- 5 degrees. Borrowers must supply a facility report prior to the delivery of the exhibition.

               Lu-nas-nin-ni, King Island

Programming: Members of the Curtis Foundation, including descendants of Curtis, are available for speaking engagements.

Shipping: Muskegon Museum of Art staff will coordinate shipping between venues. Shipping estimates can be provided.

Handling and Insurance: Host venues  must provide experienced preparators and/or curatorial staff to unpack, install, and pack the exhibition, as well as prepare condition reports upon arrival and before removal.  Venues will insure the art while on premises.

Booking Information:  Bookings will be accepted in the order they are received. While tentative holds are accepted, a signed contract with a deposit of $1,000 holds a firm reservation. Cancellation fees apply. For further information, or to book the exhibition, contact Art Martin at (231) 720-2582 or   


The Exhibition is available for slots of up to 12 weeks.


Venue periods are flexible with advance notice. Dates will be booked to allow a minimum of one week to install and one week to deinstall the show. Length of shipping periods will be determined by distance and  availability of transportation. 

September 16, 2021 – January 9, 2022

Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI

Available beginning Spring 2022




                         Paul Ivanoff