Introduction

The Bancroft Library presents "Images of Native Americans," a digital companion to an exhibit of rare books, photographs, illustrations, and other archival and manuscript materials that debuted in the Fall of 2000, to celebrate the acquisition of the University of California, Berkeley Library's nine millionth volume.

The Bancroft Library houses one the world's finest collections of research materials relating to the history of California and the American West, and this exhibition presents a selection of visual materials relating to Native Americans. The panorama of images selected includes illustrations from rare books, pamphlets, journals, pulp magazines, newspapers, and ephemera in addition to selections of original photographs, including stereographs, lantern slides, and cyanotypes.

The diverse scholarly treasures represented in this exhibition include materials that reflect European interpretations of Native Americans, scientific and anthropological research, United States military surveys, images of popular culture, literary and political observations, and artistic representations.

The digital exhibit offers several enhancements, including additional images and text, a timeline to facilitate the viewing of materials in a chronological sequence, and a checklist of exhibit items.

A special section is devoted to James Otto Lewis' Aboriginal Portfolio, the first color plate book with images of American Indians published in the United States. The portion of the exhibit devoted to this historic volume includes an essay written by Anthony Bliss, Curator of Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts, detailing the intrigue often associated with the acquisition of rare items and an introductory essay on the publication history of this landmark work. Several of the original color plate illustrations have been reproduced and are available for viewing in the digital exhibit—only one color plate illustration from the volume could be viewed in the original exhibit.

"Images of Native Americans," examined within the historical context that produced these images, may inform, entertain, and contribute to a better understanding of the perceptions of Native Americans in our society.

Are the images an accurate portrayal of Native Americans? Do the illustrations represent a mis-interpreted view of American Indians by a white society? Is it possible to distinguish between the perceptions of the individuals who created and viewed these images years ago and present-day understanding of these same images? Do these images tell us more about the creators of such works than they reveal about the individuals depicted?

"Images of Native Americans" joins a growing catalog of digital exhibits and digital collections found on The Bancroft Library website. The Bancroft Library is committed to the acquisition and preservation of historical materials and—most importantly—serves as a resource for all those who teach and study our cultural heritage. It is the interaction of researchers with our rare and unique materials that defines the purpose of The Bancroft Library.

Bancroft regularly hosts scholars, college and university students, authors, high school students and teachers, and countless individuals with inquisitive minds. The Bancroft Library welcomes thousands of individuals through its front door each year. In today's increasingly technological world Bancroft also welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe through our electronic portal.

We hope you enjoy this virtual exhibit and if this is your first "digital" visit to The Bancroft Library, please take this opportunity to explore our online exhibits, publications, calendar of events, and other historical resources. Please come back and visit us anytime—the digital Bancroft is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

William E. Brown Jr.
Head, Public Services
The Bancroft Library
May 2002

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