Edward S. Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, The Lost Photographs

September 16 through January 9, 2022

Never before seen photographs from Curtis’s final journey

Edward S. Curtis, Rocky Cliff at Beach

On June 8, 1927, Edward Sherriff Curtis, accompanied by daughter Beth Curtis Magnuson 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 1906, 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 Southwestern, Western, and Northwestern United States. 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 S. Curtis, Diomede Mother and Child

Edward Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, The Lost Photographs presents, for the first time to the public, images made from the unused original negatives. Over 100 images will 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. This exhibition accompanies the 2021 publication of the complete journals by Curtis’s descendants in Edward Curtis: Unpublished Alaska. Join us in exploring this unique glimpse into the making of an artistic and historic masterpiece.

Unpublished Alaska

More photos on our Media page

Opening Presentation featuring Curtis Legacy Foundation board panelists

Underwritten by

Media Support

Shaping the Future: New Acquisitions

September 23 through October 24, 2021

Charles E. Burchfield (American 1893-1967)
Steel Mill Homes (Blast Furnace), watercolor on paper/board, 1919
Museum Purchase, Gift of the L. C. and Margaret Walker Fund. 2020.7

Mike & Kay Olthoff Gallery

The Muskegon Museum of Art was established, through the generosity and direction of Charles Hackley, to “collect pictures of the best kind.” Over the following century, directors and curators built upon that legacy, collecting artwork from artists contemporary and past. Today, the permanent collection of the Muskegon Museum of Art holds over 5,000 objects and is recognized around the world.

Featured in this exhibition are artworks acquired in the past several years, by purchase or gift. The gifts came to us from the artists themselves or from supportive collectors. The remaining objects were purchased—many from MMA exhibitions of contemporary artists—using funds generously provided by donors for the express purpose of buying art.

As the MMA looks to its dramatic expansion and the next hundred years, our collection will continue to be a central part of our identity. The expanded galleries will allow us to share more of our holdings with the community than ever, increasing the stories we are able to present. Contemporary art acquisitions will speak to the audiences of today and tomorrow even as we build on our existing holdings, adding artworks that deepen the art historical record and enrich our perspectives.

Underwritten by

92nd Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition

September 23 through November 10, 2021
92nd MIContemporary Logo

92nd MIContemporary Logo

92nd Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition

The 92nd Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition continues our legacy of showcasing the work of Michigan artists, from talented beginners to accomplished professionals. This competitive show presents a look at the issues, themes, and materials inspiring today’s Michigan artists. A visitor favorite, the exhibition engages, challenges, and inspires conversation. Michigan residents ages 18 and over were eligible to submit artwork entries.

92nd Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition Catalogue

92nd Michigan Contemporary Exhibition Awards

About this year’s juror:

Karen Hampton

Karen Hampton is an internationally recognized conceptual artist whose work addresses issues of colorism and kinship within the African American community. She is a weaver, dyer, painter, embroiderer, storyteller, and teacher. She holds a BA from New College in San Francisco, CA and a MFA from University of California at Davis and her art has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include those at Michigan State University in Lansing, MI; the Honolulu Museum of Art in Honolulu, HI; the Jack Bells Gallery in St. James, London, England; the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, San Francisco, CA; and Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. Group exhibitions include those at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Dartmouth, MA; the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, CA; the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, San Jose, CA; and the Muskegon Museum of Art’s own traveling exhibition Innovators and Legends: Generations in Textiles and Fibers which ran from 2012 to 2015. Hampton taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C. from 2007-2011 and in 2017 was an assistant professor and Critical Race Issues Resident Artist at Michigan State University. Hampton’s artwork is held in the collections of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum, Hamilton College, Clinton NY and the Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii. She received the coveted Eureka Prize from the Fleishhacker Foundation in 2008. https://www.kdhampton.com/

Underwritten by Warner Norcross + Judd, LLP.


Tiff Massey: Jewelry Box

November 11 through February 20, 2022

Tiff Massey, from Say It Loud

Mike & Kay Olthoff Gallery

Multimedia artist and metalsmith Tiff Massey makes art and jewelry inspired by 1980s hip-hop fashion and her experiences living in Detroit. Building from an examination of the African diaspora, Massey delves into contemporary issues of race, class, and popular culture in large-scale wearable jewelry and sculpture, music, performances, and installations. Drawing from her “Everyday Arsenal” series, the artist transforms the MMA’s Olthoff Gallery into a flashy display of massive hip-hop jewelry, gold, and mirrors in a dynamic exploration of self-identity and fashion. A Cranbrook graduate with a MFA in metalsmithing, Massey is a two time winner of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge and a 2015 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellowship recipient.

Opening Reception & Artist Talk
Thursday, November 11
Reception 5:00–6:00 | Artist Talk 7:00 pm

Underwritten by


June 1 through June 1, 2021

The North American Indian

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.