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Mystery portraits highlight fashion and beauty

The screenshot above is just a sample of the portraits on file at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The easiest way to see them is to visit the museum library and browse the database. (Courtesy photo)

Here at the Museum we’ve partnered with this newspaper to care for thousands of photographs their hardworking reporters took for the Seminole Tribe of Florida for over 30 years. You can imagine that is a lot of photos. We estimate there are around 30,000! Since they were transferred to the Museum in 2015 we’ve been working hard to get them cataloged and into our database, so that we can keep track of them and preserve them for the future. This month I’m happy to report that we are halfway there! This is impressive if you consider that these are not the only objects we’re cataloging. Seminole history doesn’t stop, and neither do we! Come see us if you want to see how and why we take care of the things we take care of. It is definitely an eye-opener for most people.

These days, photographs are digital, and the newspaper has no need for our services with their current work. However, we are happy to help care for the pictures they took in the past, because they are a treasure trove of information about recent Tribal life and activities. It’s our mission to help preserve those things, and it’s also our mission to bring this history back to anyone in the community who wants it. One of the ways we do this is by providing copies of photographs in our collection.

In my recent work with the Tribune photographs we have, I’ve run across a lot of similar portrait-style close-up photographs of well-dressed people. People are often wearing patchwork and posing for the pictures. Maybe they were doing this because they were participating in clothing contests, such as the ones held every year Tribal Fair. Such contests also take place at other times and on other reservations, so does anyone know if the newspaper was in the habit of taking advantage of the times in order to get stunning pictures of these photogenic folks? And at least one of the pictures was taken in 1999, but does anyone know if the newspaper was in the habit of taking these photographs for a series of years? Any information we can gather helps us preserve and share the past.

We know who some of these people are, but most are unidentified. We’d love some help in naming more of the people who went out to proudly strut their stuff. These are nice portraits, and we imagine that if you were the subject of one, you probably didn’t get a copy at the time. It wasn’t that easy 15 or 20 years ago, when film had to be commercially developed and printed. These days we can make digital copies quickly and we’d be happy to do that for you. Maybe you’re looking for a nice photo of a family member? This might be a good way to find it.
We’re happy to help if you make an appointment or even just drop by. See you soon!

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