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Clewiston donations bring unique photos to Seminole community

Four men and a young boy stand in a line and pose for a picture while demonstrating traditional clothing, circa 1960s. (Courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum cares for a collection of over 150,000 historic photographs.  They span from the early 1900s to the present time.  The photographs have come from many sources, and most of them were donations. 

For example, we have more than 400 photographic images from the 1940s.  During this decade, there were two main sources for photographs of Seminole people and places.  One was William D. Boehmer, a teacher on the Brighton Reservation who took over 2,000 photographs of people and events during the first half of the 20th century.  The other source was an anthropologist who spent nearly a decade on the Big Cypress Reservation, Ethel Cutler Freeman.  Both of those individuals, or their families, later donated their photograph collections to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki. 

The museum is also lucky to have an enormous number of late 20th century photographs.  This is because The Seminole Tribune was active from the 1970s to early 2000s, taking thousands of photographs and documenting the lives and news Seminole communities near and far.

A similar donation of a few hundred photographs in 2018 brought us some nostalgic and surprising images from the early 1960s and 1970s.  In 2018, the Clewiston Museum had to make some changes and they contacted us about transferring a collection that nurse Claudia Wilson had donated to them.  Claudia was a local nurse who worked for the Seminole Tribe of Florida during the 1960s and 1970s.  Her photographs show a time when prices were unbelievably low, before high rises and bumper-to-bumper traffic, and when simple pleasures were still appreciated.  This was also a time of great transition for the tribe.  Claudia and other professionals brought a white man’s world of education and health care, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.  As you peruse the pictures you can judge for yourselves. 

The pink Bel-Air car is used as a convenient place to eat and hang out with friends and family in this photo, circa 1960s-1970s. (Courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

Whatever you decide, the importance of pictures like this cannot be overstated.  If you remember those days, then the pictures bring back a flood of memories.  If you’ve only heard your parents and grandparents talk about the early days of the tribe’s federal recognition, then you might not have a visual reference for them.  Either way, the museum is here to bring these memories to you.

Do you recognize any of these people or locations?  The photographs didn’t come with much information, so we could use your help.  And while we’re closed, you can still see our photo collection through on the Museum’s website.  Or if you want my help, email me at tarabackhouse@semtribe.com and I’d be happy to search our collection in order to find exactly you’re looking for.  Thank you and Happy Holidays from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum!

A group of people share a meal together on the grass. How many people have good memories of picnic-style dining like this with their family? (Courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)
Children enjoy ice cream at a lunch counter in front of a wall that includes a sign for a breakfast special, “Home of the Famous 2 for 98 cents meals,” circa 1960s. Wouldn’t that be famous today! (Courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)
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