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Performing Archive: Curtis + “the vanishing race”

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Jacqueline Wernmont, Heather Blackmore, David Kim, Ulia Popova, Beatrice Schuster, Amy Borsuk

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Created as a pilot project for the Claremont Center for Digital Humanities, Performing Archive: Edward S. Curtis + ‘the vanishing race’ aggregates media from several different collections based on the early 20th century ethnographic and photographic work of Edward S. Curtis. At its core it is an aggregation of several existing archival visual, material, and sonic collections based on the work of Curtis, an early 20th century photographer. In its gathering of materials from multiple sources, Performing Archive acts both as a meta-archive in its own right, and as an interpretive layer that examines Curtis’ materials through essays written by a variety of contributors. The project is designed to expand over time with additional contributions from students, faculty, and the public. Performing Archive is the first project to make use of an experimental new reader interface for Scalar that’s designed to improve readability, navigation, and media presentation. In addition to aggregating nearly 2,500 items related to Curtis and his ethnographic and photographic work with western American and Canadian tribes, their "archive" also brings together a number of new scholarly works designed to facilitate teaching with Curtis' work. The issues of intellectual and cultural property rights raised by the publication of the Curtis images (both historically and now) are worth thinking about in broad terms as efforts within Digital Humanities, Public Humanities, and Museum Studies continues to engage in efforts to increase access to archives and collections that have been marginalized, excluded, or silenced.