Osage photographic exhibit to open, public's help asked in IDing subjects

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Osage Nation Museum is hosting “Enduring Images: Osage Photographic Portraiture” through Aug. 26.

This exhibit is comprised of late 19th and early 20th century portrait photographs from the ONM’s permanent collection. Also included are items from a recently-acquired collection of more than 1,000 photographs donated to the museum by Assistant Principal Chief Raymond W. Red Corn.

The museum is seeking help from members of the community in identifying people and places in the photographs of the Red Corn collection. ONM staff will have photo binders available for patrons to look at and they will be adding information obtained about the individuals and/or places in the photographs.

Through the identification process, the museum hopes to capture important information that will enhance the photographic collection housed here, ONM officials said.

Since its inception, photography was used to capture a moment in time. A place, gesture, facial expression, or time period is frozen for future generations to look upon. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Native Americans were considered a “vanishing race.” Photographic images show an important and sometimes romanticized version of Native American life. During this time, the Osage people were also photographed prolifically. Photographers such as G.W. Parsons, O. Drum, W.J. Boag, and Vince Dillon set up their studios in Pawhuska and Fairfax to document and photograph the Osage Indians. Publishers including W. A. Bradley and Williamson Halfner distributed real photo post cards of Osage Indian culture and people, making these images available for worldwide consumption.

The ONM has chosen to display these century old photographs from the permanent collection in the hopes that viewers may glimpse what life was like for the Osage during this time period and draw their own contemporary reactions to these images. In the age of the “selfie,” where a camera is never far away, and our lives are well documented, we thought it was important to showcase early photography of the Osage and how our people were depicted. We want to ask the viewer to think about the reactions they might have from seeing these images and if this is how they would like to be portrayed today.

“Often times, it only takes one generation for knowledge to be lost,” Curator Hallie Winter said. “To ensure the stories and information related to these photographs are preserved for all future generations, the museum is relying on our community to add information to our collection and actively contribute to the cultural preservation of our heritage.”

Located at 819 Grandview Ave., Founded in 1938, the Osage Nation Museum is the oldest tribally-owned museum in the United States. Its continuously changing exhibits convey the story of the Osage people throughout history and celebrate Osage culture today. Highlights — in addition to the extensive photograph collection — include historical artifacts, and traditional and contemporary art.

No admission is charged at the ONM and parking is free.