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A photographic collection that celebrates community spirit

Billy L. Cypress, veterans and the Seminole Tribe’s Color Guard during a grand entry at the Seminole Tribal Fair in 2001. (Photo courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

BIG CYPRESS — The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum remains closed, but continues to serve the Seminole community, in part by cataloging thousands of photographic negatives. The project, funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is increasing collections accessibility by organizing and describing 9,000 negatives donated by The Seminole Tribune in 2015. The negatives are scanned and assigned numbers that link them to their records. They are then placed in protective housing that helps preserve them for future generations. Finally, a catalog record is created for each negative. The photo is described to facilitate database searches, and information about its location is included to make it easy for staff to locate negatives if community members wish to make copies of them.

The photographic negatives showcase events from the 1970s to the early 2000s. They capture joyous moments from holiday festivities, sporting events and formal occasions. Among the collection are photos of adults covered in mud and laughing during tug-of-war as others play volleyball and horseshoes on the Fourth of July. Other negatives show youth beaming with pride as they participate in 4-H livestock shows or receive academic achievement awards. There are also images of grand entries and patchwork clothing contests at tribal fairs, where many gather to honor Seminole culture. Unique about this collection is that some photos appear in Seminole Tribune articles, which enrich the collection’s visual story by providing information such as the event, location and people present in negatives. Collections records include these details and information about the associated article, which allows you to learn more about photos that interest you.

The photographic negatives are a celebration of recent Seminole history. You can relive moments, share them with others or learn about local history by browsing our online catalog. The museum also accepts requests for copies of photos, and what is special about this collection of negatives is that they can be printed in various sizes to suit your needs. Upon request, negatives are re-scanned at a higher resolution to create quality copies for your family albums. You can view records and make requests on our website: semtribe.pastperfectonline.com/.

Already online for viewing are 1,000 of the project’s 9,000 photographic negatives, specifically records 2015.6.32000-33000. Over the next year and a half, the rest of the negatives will be cataloged and uploaded to the online database. As you browse the collection you may notice that some records lack details. Should you recognize a person, location or event and wish to share that information you can submit feedback through the website, or contact Collections Manager Tara Backhouse at tarabackhouse@semtribe.com. New information is used to update records, which makes searching through them easier.

The project aims to preserve memories for the Seminole community now and in the future, and the museum hopes that the growing online catalog will help people feel connected to their past and each other. As the pandemic continues to separate people in an unprecedented way, it is nice to remember the joy brought by community gatherings and look forward to their return.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Service FY20 Program.

A group photo during a Big Cypress recreation field trip to Sunsplash Family Waterpark. (Photo courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)
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