“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a famous idiom dating back to a 1918 newspaper article published in the San Antonio Light. It remains true today when considered through the lenses of the many photographers who have taken many tens of thousands of photos during more than 40 years of The Seminole Tribune. Photos that capture and document Seminole Tribe of Florida events and places, Tribal members and Tribal life have proven to be an invaluable Tribal asset, particularly for preserving Tribal and familial histories alike. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum currently has an estimated 50,000 of these photos in its collection and the effort to organize, house, scan and catalog these photos for their permanent preservation and for Tribal member use is on-going.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program recently awarded the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum a grant to hire a new staff member dedicated toward this important pursuit. The goal of the project, which officially commenced in Dec. 2017, is to house, scan and catalog roughly 12,000 Tribune photos within 12 months. I am very pleased to join the Collections Department at the museum as that new staff member with the job title, “Cataloging Assistant”. My primary duty is to work on the Tribune photo project.
As a quick bit of information on the methodology, each photo is carefully placed into a protective Mylar sleeve then scanned as a digital image on the computer and finally cataloged. Cataloging refers to the written description of the photo’s subject matter and can include details about locations, events, objects, activities and most importantly – people. This process is all completed within a museum computer software program, PastPerfect, which groups the digital image, its written description and
other metrics and the photo’s physical location within the museum’s archival vault. Once cataloged, the information can be readily searched using keywords, such as the name of an event, place or person. A really neat feature is the ability for the software to further relate photos to one another. For example, a search of “Tribal fair 1996” will yield all photos of that event, as related together during the cataloging process, so as to have them all available and viewable with just one search.
The Collections Department currently has thousands of photos available through the museum’s online collection. New photos cataloged from this project will be uploaded periodically. You may access these photos via the museum’s website, or directly at: semtribe.pastperfectonline.com/photo. You may also visit the museum and a Collections Department staff member would be happy to help you search for photos. Any Tribal member interested in spending a little time volunteering to help identify people and places in photos would be most appreciated, so come have some fun viewing these photos.
Photos help us connect to each other in a way that few other physical items can. The memories we carry within us come alive upon seeing a photo of a particular event, activity or of a beloved friend or relative. Over the next 11 months I will be working with photos that represent a wide range of subject matter, encompassing a great number of people, places and things. It is satisfying to know my work will contribute toward preserving the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s history and culture.