Performing Archive

Visualization and Results

David J. Kim, UCLA

Since most of the connections in this simple visualization contain one-to-one relationship between the image and the subject, the nodes with more than one connection easily stood out from the rest. Although we had spent considerable amount of time browsing the digital collections in the Northwestern Digital Library and the American Memory sites, since their interface do not offer an easily digestible gallery view of all the images contained within a volume, this visualization brought our attention several details that we haven't noticed previously.

1. "Man Wearing Headband and Breechcloth:" The Quintessential Apache?

[Visualization 2: Apache Node in Google Network Graphics]

Out of the 35 unique nodes in the circle of Apache, the subject described as "Man Wearing Headband and Breechcloth" (Library of Congress of description) is represented in 4 of the images. One of the titles describes him simply as "Apache" while other image titles focus on nature and the features of the landscape in the images: "By the Sycamore" "Bathing Pool" (or "By the Pool") and "The Pool." Closer examination of these images reveals that it is most likely that the same subject is featured in all of them. How do we explain Curtis' fixation on this man? To what extent are these representations "posed," in order to construct and support Curtis' claims of realism: "Therefore, being directly from Nature, the accompanying pictures show what actually exists or has recently existed…, not what the artist in his studio may presume the Indian and his surroundings to be?"14

Gallery: "the man wearing headband and breechcloth."

2. Navaho, a Tribe of Mythical Figures?

[Visualization 3: Navaho Node in Google Network Graphics]

For the images that comprise the Navaho, the network contains far more multiple connections than those of other tribes.  The areas within the network that contain these multiple connections are primarily the images of the subjects performing mythical figures during a ritual: "Haschelti," "Haschenzhini," "Gaaskidi," etc.... Using the search filter for the column "mythical" in the dataset, the visualization shows that while mythical figures are only referred to once for the Apache and none for the Jicarilla, 12 out of the total 33 images of the Navaho are of these fully masked figures, most of them depicted in multiple images. Without drawing any definitive analysis from this finding, one can simply state that this "distant view" reveals the unevenness with which Curtis "scientifically" documented the tribes. Is the Navaho tribe particularly more invested in these ceremonies than the other tribes are? As with the example of the "Man Wearing Headband and Breechcloth," Curtis' documentation of the each of the tribes fixates on certain attributes.

Gallery: The Mythical Navaho

3. The Women of Jicarilla

[Visualization 4: Jicarilla Node in Google Network Graphics]

Out of the three tribes documented in volume 1 of the North American Indian, the Jicarilla tribe is noticeably depicted the least.  Curtis includes only 7 images that contain human subjects for this tribe. Looking at this node closer, we also see that 5 out of the 7 images are representations of figures explicitly described as woman in the titles. Furthermore, the image that is simply titled "A Jicarilla" is a woman referred to in another image as "Vash Gon," who is photographed by Curtis in a manner that emphasizes her facial features from a shadow that outlines her profile. Why is this tribe particularly gendered in this way? Does this support the claim that Jicarilla is a traditionally matrilineal society? But so is the Navaho tradition, but there isn't such emphasis on women in his documentation of the Navaho tribe.

Gallery: The Women of Jicarilla

14. Edward S. Curtis, in the General Introduction in vol. 1, xiii-xiv)

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