Book summary: "The Yukaghir people of northeastern Siberia, seeing a camera for the first time, called it 'the three-legged device that draws a person's shadow to stone.' The three legs were the tripod, and the shadow drawn to stone was the image inscribed onto the glass-plate negative".
Photography is both a form of collecting and means of representation. This book reexamines photographs from an early anthropological expedition to the North Pacific after a century of change. In 1897, Morris Jesup, president of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, sponsored a five-year expedition to Alaska and Siberia. Under the direction of anthropologist Franz Boas, research teams studied the cultural and biological similarities and differences among the several peoples living on both sides of the Bering Strait. This immense research project left a legacy of classic ethnographies, irreplaceable museum collections, and some three thousand photographs. One hundred years after the expedition, this material is a valuable resource for cultural revival.
The men and women of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition used the camera to record what they believed to be vanishing cultures. These photographs became the fixed and frozen images of cultural forms, stereotypic representations which were sometimes reproduced in museum dioramas. Thomas Ross Miller and Barbara Mathe examine how early anthropologists saw their task and how they used photographs as cultural and biological data, as documentation of places, events, and artifacts, and as models for future exhibits. A gallery of sixty photographs follows a brief history of the Jesup Expedition and an illustrated essay on the making and interpretation of theseimages.