In Citizen’s Garb: Southern Plains Native Americans, 1889-1891, a photographic exhibition on view at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology from March 26 through June 20, 2010, explores the ways dress—and life—changed for the Kiowa, Comanche, and other Native American nations of the Southern Plains during the last tumultuous decades of the 1800s. Plains Indian clothing from the period, selected from the Museum’s own collection, complements the photographs.
The photography exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, which is the national touring division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a non-profit regional arts organization based in Kansas City, Missouri.
Indian reservations in Oklahoma and Indian Territories opened during the 1880s and 90s, coinciding with large-scale efforts by the United States government to force western Native American tribes to adapt Euro-American ways. These efforts were meant to “civilize” the native peoples.
William J. Lenny and William L. Sawyers were among the many white entrepreneurs quick to capitalize on the romantic lure of the Indian nations. They set up shop in Purcell, Oklahoma, one of the many towns that sprang up on former Indian lands, to make photographs of formerly “wild Indians” for eastern consumption, where there was a great appetite for images of the West. The 53 photographs that comprise this exhibition are modern restrikes made from Lenny and Sawyer’s original glass negatives.
Some of the photographs show obvious⎯yet powerful⎯details of the acculturation process. Images of Native Americans in both citizen and native dress reflect the transition that occurred between the nations’ past and their radically different future.
Fifteen Native American objects, including a little girl’s buckskin dress with elaborate decoration and mens’ and womens’ moccasins, all chosen from the Penn Museum’s rich holdings, are included in the gallery. They date from the same time period and place (Kiowa and Comanche, Kiowa-Apache Reservation) as the photographs. Each of the object types is depicted in one or more of the photographs included in the exhibition.
In Citizen’s Garb is curated by John Hernandez, director of the Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton, Oklahoma. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of the Great Plains and toured by ExhibitsUSA. The purpose of ExhibitsUSA is to create access to an array of arts and humanities exhibitions, nurture the development and understanding of diverse art forms and cultures, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. ExhibitsUSA is a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1972.
The exhibition goes on view in the Merle-Smith Gallery West, 1st floor of the Penn Museum.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind’s collective heritage.
Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn’s campus, across from Franklin Field and adjacent to SEPTA’s University City Regional Rail station serving the R1, R2, and R3 lines). Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, Sunday 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays and holidays. Admission donation is $10 for adults; $7 for senior citizens (65 and above); $6 children (6 to 17) and full-time students with ID; free to Members, Penncard holders, and children 5 and younger; “pay-what-you-want” after 3:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday, and after 4:00 pm Sunday. Penn Museum can be found on the web at www.penn.museum. For general information call (215) 898-4000.