An early design assignment at the Gilcrease Museum was organizing an exhibition around a collection of photographs owned by The Capital Group Foundation. The images, while new, were printed from original negatives captured by photographer Edward Sherriff Curtis. The collection of seventy-five photographs had been utilized to illustrate a new publication entitled The Many Faces of Edward Sherriff Curtis written by Steadman Upham and Nat Zappia. The newly matted and framed collection arrived without interpretation. The easiest task was deciding on a title for the installation.
The North American Indian became my primary source for direct quotes by Curtis and insights into the creation of the original photographs. In the end the gallery interpretations centered around excerpt from the new book, quotes from Curtis, and interpretive panels relating the traditional stories of the tribal groups represented in the photographs. In a divergence from the new publication, I ordered the photographs in the gallery by regional tribal affiliation – Plains, Puebloan, Pacific Northwest, and Alaskan – rather than from youngest to oldest.
Mr. Tonsing had been cataloguing the sound tracks and also repatriating CDs of the songs to the descendents of the original singers. With Mr. Tonsing’s guidance we were able to create a background soundtrack for the gallery, in addition to a listening station with additional information concerning specific cuts.
Mr. Tonsing also led us to the silent movie – In the Land of the Headhunters – written and directed by Curtis in the nineteen-teens. We ultimately utilized a loop sequence from the film in the gallery. It showcased a traditional masked dance ceremony from the Pacific Northwest tribe with full regalia.