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Photos on the move! Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s photo binders provide wider community access

By Barbara Billie and Tara Backhouse

Looking for family members or a past event? Check out binders like this at the next community event. (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

BIG CYPRESS — Here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum there is a lot to see, but what many visitors don’t get to see is the behind-the-scenes activities. Staff members plan changes to several of the galleries throughout the year. Others work on educational programs that serve the groups that request a tour during their museum visit, or the outside institutions that request presentations and programs from our museum. Another thing that goes on behind the scenes is the preservation of historic objects. We prevent damage to nearly 200,000 things by organizing and storing them carefully in special materials. We treat objects in the conservation lab to make them more stable and we repair damage from years of exposure to the environment, or from improper handling, display and storage over the object’s lifetime.

Approximately 150,000 of the museum’s historic objects are photographs. These are both black and white and color. They can be prints, negatives or slides, and they date from the early 1900s to the early 2000s. There are many parts to the preservation process and the Collections team works together on that process. Iretta Tiger starts the process by organizing and identifying people, places and events in the photographs. Then she houses each photograph in a specialized plastic sleeve. Then our digitization wizard, Graysun Billie, numbers and scans each photograph so it can be stored in the STOF computer system. From there, other team members enter each photograph in a database, where the photos are described with all the information we have at that time. After that, we can print paper copies of the pictures and the information we have. This is what we use to make the photo binders you can look through both in the museum library or at various events.

During July, the museum had the pleasure of joining in on the fun during the wellness fairs held on different reservations. The museum set up tables at the events with a variety of photo binders. Many binders were full of relatively recent photos from the Seminole Tribune. But some went back to the early and middle 20th century. We also had some binders of historic postcards, as well.

We travel with the photo binders to different tribal community events so the community members can get a chance to see the pictures and chat with museum staff. You may even find a family member or friend. You can request copies of the photos or even request that we look for specific people in our database. We do this work back at the museum and we can email or print and mail you the photographs. We understand not everyone can get to the museum.

But the other thing we are trying to accomplish is to “identify” the people, event, date and location of the photographs. We usually know some information, but not always enough. Fully identifying the photographs would be awesome for our future generations. And we hope the community or employees can assist us.

Iretta Tiger, Laura Dello Russo, Alex Banks and Barbara Billie are usually manning the tables at the events. We are all part of the Collections team here at the museum and we do different things at the museum. But at times we attend the events and staff the photo tables so we can meet the community members. So when you see the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum table at your next event stop by say hello.

Iretta Tiger helps some visitors to our photo binder table at the recent Hollywood wellness event on July 26.