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Edward S Curtis

Senior Book Conservator Todd Pattison

Conserved volume

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Rare Copies of Edward Curtis' The North American Indian
Conserved for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

About the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science include a wide variety of scientific disciplines focusing on anthropology, earth sciences, health sciences, space sciences, zoology, and the Rocky Mountain West. Staff from both the Museum’s Avenir Conservation Center and Bailey Library and Archives work to support curatorial and exhibits staff in planning and implementing exhibitions and public programming.

A Discovery

Among the Bailey Library’s collection of over 53,000 publications, 2,500 rare books, and 9,000 volumes of scientific periodicals, the staff identified two extremely rare volumes of Edward Curtis’ The North American Indian.

Edward S. Curtis was an American photographer who set out to produce a monumental study of the native peoples of North America at the turn of the 20th century. Known by some tribes as “Shadow Catcher,” Curtis personally visited eighty tribes and captured a unique photographic record of the tribes’ traditional way of life.

Original volumes of The North American Indian set are extremely rare, because of the limited number of copies printed, the high quality paper, the exquisite plates, and the years that passed before they were re-discovered by the public.

Prioritized for Conservation Treatment

When the Bailey Library staff discovered that they had two of the rare volumes,  they added them to their list of collections prioritized for conservation treatment.  

“Realizing that these books were among the top three volumes of value in our collection,” says Brent Wagner, Librarian and Chair of the Museum’s Bailey Library and Archives, “we wanted to be sure that their condition matched their importance to the museum.”

After conferring with objects conservator Jude Southward, the Museum’s Avenir Conservation Center Chair, it was decided to bring the books to NEDCC for conservation treatment.

READ MORE and view the slideshow . . .

[Edward Curtis photo courtesy of: Northwestern University Library]

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