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Course & Subject Guides

Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, Spring-Summer 2018: The Exhibit & Edward S. Curtis

This library guide is an overview of the Archives & Special Collection exhibit on Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian.

Exhibit postcard

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Archives & Special Collections

A&SC at Hillman Library

3960 Forbes Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Phone: 412-648-8190


M-F: 9:00am-4:45pm



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The Exhibit

This exhibit of landscapes and portraits by Edward S. Curtis features thirty-five photogravure prints selected from The North American Indian, published from 1907 to 1930.  The images reveal the significance of the relationship of the native peoples of North America with their ancestral lands.  The photogravures are displayed with written passages by Curtis, Chief Joseph, Geronimo, and Red Cloud.  Curtis photographed “a broad and luminous pictureof the land and its inhabitants as he traveled from the Pacific Northwest to the desert Southwest, from the Badlands to the Columbia River Plateau, and north to the Alaskan Arctic.  The exhibit concludes on Friday, November 16, 2018.

In 1898, the Seattle photographer Edward S. Curtis conceived of the idea to photograph all the surviving tribes of North American Indians living west of the Mississippi River in the United States and in Alaska.  The finished work is a set of twenty text volumes, each with an accompanying portfolio volume of photogravure prints.  There are more than 2,200 original photogravures in each set, along with nearly 4,000 pages of text that contain a record of the diverse panorama of the native peoples of North America. 

The complete set of The North American Indian owned by the University of Pittsburgh was purchased from the Boston rare book dealer, Charles E. Lauriat Company, by the librarian and historian Lois Mulkearn, for the Darlington Memorial Library in May 1949.  Of the five-hundred proposed sets, less than three-hundred were printed.  The Darlington Memorial Library copy is number 133.

Curtis device


We want to thank the University Library System's Archives & Special Collections, the Digital Research Library, and Web Services and Communications for their generous assistance in preparing this exhibit. 

We wish to recognize our undergraduate research assistant Patti Smith, Department of Anthropology, whose investigations provided valuable material for our exhibition. 

We also would like to express our appreciation to The Seattle Public Library for permission to use letters and a portrait photograph from their Edward S. Curtis Digital Collection, along with additional images from Northwestern University Library's digital collection, Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian


Exhibit & Guide Creators

This exhibit, selected and presented by Archives & Special Collections, features original photogravures from The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis from the Darlington Digital Library.

The Library Guide for this exhibit has been constructed by student Patti Smith, Department of Anthropology, under the editorial guidance of Archives & Special Collections staff member Margaret McGill.

Materials are available for study in the Reading Room upon request to Archives & Special Collections, Hillman Library, University of Pittsburgh.

Exhibit Catalogue, LibGuide Layout, and Curtis Chronology & Device

The dates on the tabs of the landing pages of the Library Guide correspond to the date range of the printed photogravures that are included within that titled section.  We have also incorporated a chronology of the major events in the life of Edward S. Curtis, which progresses over time on the landing pages of this guide.

Each of the twenty text volumes of The North American Indian has a unique native art-inspired device on its title page.  The image pictured here is the device from volume one, which we have used throughout the Library Guide.

Curtis device