Image credit: From the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Wanamaker Collection of American Indian Photographs. Title: On the Sky Line (1962-08-2667)
On January 17, 2024, the Library of Congress awarded nearly $400,000 to six projects highlighting uses of digital collections, including "Connecting Collections: Indigenous Identities in Edward Curtis and Joseph Dixon Materials," a collaborative project between Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (IUMAA), and IU Libraries' Archives of Traditional Music (ATM).
The program is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path initiative, with support from the Mellon Foundation. The 2024 awardees will use these funds to create projects that offer creative approaches to the Library’s digital collections and center Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic or Latino studies.
“We’re thrilled to provide financial and technical support to institutions and organizations to facilitate a deeper understanding of their own materials in concert with the Library’s digital materials,” said Library of Congress program director Marya McQuirter.
Specifically, Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will work collaboratively with three local Indigenous artists to produce an online and physical exhibition. Artists, Debra Yepa-Pappan (Jemez Pueblo/Korean), Molina Two Bulls (Lakota), and Yatika Starr Fields (Osage/Creek/Cherokee), will reimagine materials held at Indiana University and also at the Library of Congress, focusing on photographs and wax cylinder recordings gathered by photographer Joseph Dixon and ethnologist Edward Curtis. The work will prioritize Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, expertise, and creative capital.
"We commit to ensuring that all digital and exhibition material published for this project will honor the direction and consent from the Indigenous artists," said Principle Investigator Brandie Macdonald, executive director of the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries, Diane Dallis-Comentale, is grateful for the new support toward organizational goals of collection usability, "I am excited that this project will create new opportunities to connect collections, identify points of overlap, and document them so future community members and scholars can more easily access them. Our vision is that this project will also connect past voices with those in the present."
The grant-funded project will result in online and in-person exhibitions centered on explorations of Indigenous identities expressed within historical, archival, and contemporary materials.
Macdonald described her vision for the project. "The artists will be invited to examine photographs and wax cylinder recordings of Indigenous peoples gathered by Curtis and Dixon. Their individual creations inspired by these holdings will provide a connection to the images and recordings, and an opportunity to transfer agency from Curtis and Dixon to the artists, prioritizing Indigenous perspectives," she said.
The Curtis and Dixon cylinders are held by IU Libraries; the Wanamaker Collection of American Indian Photographs and Documents (the Dixon holdings) are cared for by the Museum. The project will also utilize the Curtis photographs held at the Library of Congress. Additional relevant holdings at the Museum include material culture from U.S. Northwest (143 artifacts), U.S. Plains and Oklahoma (2,100 artifacts), and the U.S. Northeast (97 artifacts).
"Indiana University is thrilled to be one of the six projects awarded for this Connecting Collections initiative. We have an opportunity to make sure there is a balance between creating useful tools for our institutions and collections, but even more importantly, for those who are part of the communities represented within the collections," Macdonald said.