Powerful Images, A Museums West Collaboration
In the foreword of Powerful Images, a 144-page book accompanying the touring exhibition Powerful Images: Portrayals of Native America, Peter Hassrick writes, "Artists and writers, anthropologists and politicians, have over centuries enshrouded their impressions upon America's native peoples, shaping through their images, their analyses, their prejudices and motivations the public perception of who the Indian is and how to know, appreciate, and, too often, manipulate Indian culture. Despite the diversity of native North American cultures, languages, economies and individuals, images in the popular imagination have tended to be generalized and one-dimensional."
Right: detail of Seth Eastman's The Tanner, 1848, oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 25 1/4 inches, collection of the Rockwell Museum, gift of Robert F. Rockwell, Jr., was lent to the exhibition by the Rockwell Museum.
Hassrick not only names 19th-century Anglo writers for creating strong impressions; he also cites museums: "From the earliest years of this nation's existence, museums have also played a vital role in establishing and perpetuating public perceptions of native life. The first proposed national museums were not displays of pilgrim curiosities, but collections of portraits of leading Indian figures as limned by George Catlin or Charles Bird King."
In 1990, a group of museums organized themselves as a consortium called Museums West. They defined themselves as "an international group of collegial institutions organized for the purpose of developing and expanding an awareness and an appreciation of the North American West." Nine of the museums are in the United States, including the Rockwell Museum, and one is in Canada, the Glenbow Museum. Hassrick adds: "Together, they searched for a meaningful, cooperative project to which they could lend their mutual efforts and share their collections, staff input and audiences. They chose to organize a joint exhibition, one which would contribute to public understanding about some broad segment of their collective holdings. [The] exhibition, Powerful Images, is the culmination of that collaboration."
Powerful Images, ISBN number 0-295-97675-6, is published by Museums West in association with the University of Washington Press. The book is priced at $29.95, and is available in the Rockwell Museum bookstore and other museum bookstores nationwide.
Left: Front cover of Powerful Images
Ed. see additional coverage of this touring exhibition in RLM's Eiteljorg Museum article.
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