Visiting Expert Helps Install an Exhibit at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

As part of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s mission to preserve and interpret Seminole history and culture, the Exhibits Division strives to create and mount vibrant and educational exhibits.  These exhibits include permanent and temporary displays that we showcase at the Museum, as well as packaged traveling exhibits that are available for loan.

Recently, the Museum hosted an opening reception for our newest temporary exhibit, Camera-man:  The Seminole Through the Lens of Julian Dimock.  We hope everyone had a chance to attend and enjoy this reception and we want to encourage you to visit the Museum’s Facebook page for more information and images of the reception.  For those who did not have a chance to attend the reception, or for those who would like to revisit the exhibit, it will be on view through December 2013.

The Camera-man exhibit consists of modern prints produced from photographer Julian Dimock’s glass plate negatives and Seminole artifacts.  The images were taken and the artifacts were collected during a 1910 expedition through the Everglades.  In addition to being collected during the same expedition, many of these artifacts are the exact items shown in the pictures on display.  The pictures create a link from the artifacts to the history of Seminole Tribe.  For more information on Julian Dimock, and the expedition during which these negatives were taken and artifacts were collected, see the book Hidden Seminoles, by Jerald T. Milanich and Nina J. Root.  Copies of this book can be found in the Museum’s library, and are for sale in the Museum Store.

These negatives and artifacts belong to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City.  The Museum’s Programs and Collections Divisions worked with the AMNH to make this exhibit possible.  Loan arrangements between museums can be involved and complicated, but they are done that way to best protect the artifacts.  These arrangements usually include stipulations on packing, shipping, handling, display, and monitoring.  And for this exhibit in particular, the arrangements included an additional stipulation by the AMNH that one of their conservators assist with the exhibit installation.

For the exhibit installation, AMNH conservator Gabrielle Tieu travelled to the Big Cypress Reservation and the Museum for two days to assist with the installation of the loaned artifacts.  Ms. Tieu insured the proper handling, display, and installation of the artifacts.  It was a pleasure to work with her and the Museum wishes to thank her for all of her assistance during the installation.

We asked Ms. Tieu about her experience here at the Museum.  She said in part, “After having worked months ahead of time to prepare the objects ready for the exhibition – reading about the Seminole Tribe, investigating the technology of the objects, documenting their condition, and undertaking their treatments –, it was a very meaningful experience to discover the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation and to work with the wonderful team at the Museum.”  She also told us how much she enjoyed visiting and spending the night at Billie Swamp Safari!

The Museum worked with the AMNH, the author of Hidden Seminoles, Dr. Milanich, and many others to mount this exhibit and to better identify these photographs, artifacts, and all of the Julian Dimock images held by the Museum.  But much of the history of these items is still unknown.  The Museum seeks the assistance of any of our blog readers who would like to help us research and further identify the individuals in these photos.  If you would like to participate in this research, please phone the Museum at 863.902.1113, or contact us via the Museum’s website to assist us in this work.

Thank you!

Dimock exhibit artifacts arrive in special crates.
Dimock exhibit artifacts arrived in special crate.  Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Curator of Exhibits John Moga in background.
Conservator Gabrielle Tieu examines artifacts.
AMNH Associate Conservator Gabrielle Tieu examines artifacts.  Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Exhibits Preparator Brent Newman in background.
Tieu prepares form textile.
Tieu prepares form for textile.
Tieu and Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Conservator Corey Smith arrange textile on form.
Tieu and Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Conservator Corey Smith Riley arrange textile on form.
Tieu secures textile to exhibit mount.
Tieu secures textile to exhibit mount.
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Collections Manager and Smith consult with Tieu.
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Collections Manager Tara Backhouse and Riley consult with Tieu.
View into the finished Dimock exhibit.
View into the finished Dimock exhibit.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s collection of rare books

Hello everyone.  At recent events here at the Museum, including the Museum’s 15th Anniversary Celebration, the Collections Division staff offered behind-the-scenes tours of the library, archives, and artifact storage areas.  We hope everyone enjoys these tours as much as we enjoy giving them.

But we know not everyone will have the opportunity to take one of these behind-the-scenes tours.  For this blog, we wanted to give everyone a behind-the-scenes virtual tour.  Not the full tour, but at least a glimpse of the Museum’s collection of rare books.  The Library here at the Museum holds a large collection of Native American and Seminole related newspapers, serials, books, and a large collection of rare books. 

The Library has approximately 300 books that are designated as rare.  These books are designated rare based on several criteria.  The primary determining factor is the date the book was published.  Other factors include the monetary value and the scarcity of the book.

A portion of the Museum’s collection of rare books

Additional factors may also play a role, including former ownership of the book, or if the book is signed or inscribed in some way.  The Library may also place a book in the collection of rare books if it its particularly fragile or if it requires special handling. 

One of the oldest and most rare books here at the Museum is William Bartram’s, Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, The Cherokee Country, The Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws …, published in 1791.  In this well-known book, Bartram writes at length about his observations of Native Americans including Seminoles. 

The rare books can be used for research, admired as works of art and craftsmanship, and preserved and displayed as important artifacts.  The Library’s rare book Florida Enchantments by A. W. Dimock and Julian A. Dimock will be featured in the Museum’s upcoming Julian Dimock exhibit, Camera-man, The Seminole Through the Lends of Julian Dimock, opening in December, 2012.

Rare book, “Florida Enchantments,” by A. W. Dimock and Julian Dimock, 1908.

Published in 1908, the book contains many images made from photographs taken by Julian Dimock.  The book includes a chapter entitled, “A Vanishing Race” which focuses on the Seminole Tribe.  Of special note is the book’s Art Nouveau-style cover which depicts a stylized Florida swamp scene.  The book should be a great addition to the exhibit. 

The collection of rare books is stored separate from the Library’s general books, and stored on the shelves in a different way.  They are stored flat on the side of the book.  This is done to remove any mechanical stress from the book and to best preserve it.  Until recently, the rare books were placed directly on the shelves in stacks several books high, with tissue paper between each book.  But, we wanted to improve the way the books are stored. 

Rare book storage

Over the past few months, we started a project to house the rare books in custom made boxes.  We made arrangements with an outside vendor to make custom housings for the books.  We measure each book and then send the measurements to the vendor.  The vendor makes and ships the custom boxes flat to us, and we complete the construction process here at the Museum.  The finished box is a custom fitting and custom made box for each book.  We complete the housing with a label that identifies the accession number, title, and author of the book.

Custom housing

We are approximately one-third finished with the project, and hope to complete it in the next few months.  Long-range goals for the Museum also include improved shelving for the rare books.

If you have a chance to participate in a behind-the-scenes tour here at the Museum, be sure to check out the Library’s collection of rare books, and the status of the custom housing project. 

We look forward to seeing you then.


For more information on rare books in general please see:

The Library of Congress, The Rare Book and Special Collections Division: 

Rare Book School: 

American Library Association’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section: 

Smithsonian Libraries:


For more information on rare books related to Native Americans please see:

CornellUniversity Library:

An Approaching Storm

As the Collections Manager at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, I love being able to see, and being familiar with so much of our collection of over 30,000 historic objects and archival materials.  We have dolls, baskets, patchwork, militaria, fine art, photographs, letters, rare books, and many more items, and I have favorites in almost every category.  But it’s a somewhat rare occasion that any of my favorites get put on exhibit for the world to see.  That’s because exhibits have to have a cohesive theme and design.  They are built around an idea, and objects are chosen that best represent the idea.  The objects have to be visually interesting and they have to complement the other objects on display.  So even though I love a certain purple patchwork jacket, or a particular historic letter describing pioneer life in Florida during the Second Seminole War, they may never fit into an idea for an exhibit that is hatched by the folks that hatch exhibit ideas here. 

 I admit that’s not my area of expertise.  So I’m thrilled when my favorite pieces fit well into an exhibit, as they will later this month when we display the work of Thomas Storm Sr. in our Mosaics exhibit.  Mosaics is an exhibit that showcases different Florida Seminole artists throughout the year, sometimes up-and-coming artist or youth from the local schools, and sometimes more established artists like Thomas Storm.  We have 8 pieces of Mr. Storm’s art in the collection.  I love his bold colorful style, the political statements embodied in his work, and the unique media he chooses.

My favorite piece is “The Tracker”

I’ve always had a fondness for pastels as a medium, and I love the muted colors, shading, detail, and perspective in this piece. 

Another of my favorites is “We are America” / “Bondage Still in America”

You may not be able to tell from this picture, but this piece was done with pencil and ink on a manila envelope.  The media choice has such and impact in person and really matches the emotional message conveyed by the artwork, not to mention that he has the best signature ever:

Mr. Storm is a man of many talents, and I’d like to share one more of my favorite pieces to illustration this.  It’s a brochure from his alligator wrestling days.  You may not see it in the exhibit, so enjoy it here….

You can see more of Mr. Storm’s work on exhibit here at the museum from September 28st to January 2nd.  Please come by to see it and the rest of our exhibits.  And if you would like a behind-the-scenes tour to see more of my favorites, just let me know!

Tara Backhouse, Collections Manager

863-902-1113 ex12246


Do you remember TV episodes or movies with Seminole Tribe characters or themes?


Again this month, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum sought the assistance of Seminole Tribune readers in the Museum’s “Identifying the Past” column to help us identify a photograph from the Museum’s General Reference Photography Collection. The Photograph shows what appears to be a temporary Seminole campsite. The photograph includes men, women, and children in traditional Seminole dress gathered around a campsite, shelters, cooking utensils and other supplies, and a long canoe in water along rocky canal bank.

This photograph appears to be a picture of a temporary Seminole campsite

Currently, the Museum has no information on this photograph. Some Museum staff suggest that this may be a staged photograph. Could this campsite have been staged just for this photo, or could it possibly have been staged for a TV show or movie?

If it were staged, can anyone identify the TV show or movie?

The Museum has an audiovisual collection of television episodes, documentaries, and movies that contain Seminole related characters or themes. This was a fun collection to catalog! We had to watch all these videos in order to find out if they were relevant to our collection. I have to say that was a unique assignment! But we don’t recognize that photo from any TV episode or movie in our collection.

The TV shows and movies are located here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in the Audiovisual Collection. This Collection contains hundreds of items from a variety of sources on a wide range of topics. The commercially produced titles in this Collection include:

TV shows with Seminole related episode:  Gentle Ben, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo: The Seminole Mystery, C-SPAN, Great Drives: A1A, Common Ground, Dateline NBC, Today Show, Miss Universe Pageant, Good Morning Show, Broward Teen News, Al Green Show, and Spotlight Tampa.

Documentaries: Lady of the Glades, Black Warriors of the Seminole, Four Corners of Earth, Incredible Adventures of Ransom Clark, This Land, These Men: The Story of Dade’s Battle, Seminoles of the Everglades, Himmarshee: The Legacy of Fort Lauderdale’s New River, Sacred Ground and Shipwrecks: Preserving South Florida’s Archaeological Sites, The Unconquered, Reservation Roulette – Indian Gaming, South Florida Paradise, Celebrating Florida: Works of Art for the Vickers Collection, Seminole Indians, Hidden Worlds of the Big Cypress Swamp, The Way We Were (Are), The Native Americans: The Tribes of the Southeast, How the West was Lost: The Unconquered, How the West was Lost II: The Unconquered, Everglades, Home of the Miccosukee Indian Village, Our Miami: The Magic City, Hidden Worlds of the Big Cypress Swamp, and Florida: The 27th Star.

Movies: Joe Panther, Johnny Tiger, Key Largo, Distant Drums, Porky’s II: The Next Day, South Beach Academy, Treasure of Matecumbe, and Wind Across the Everglades.

Key Largo, AV187.1, Movie includes references to the Seminole Tribe including brothers "John Osceola" and "Tom Osceola"

These titles in the Audiovisual Collect help to complete the picture of how Native Americans, and in particular the Seminole Tribe of Florida, have been portrayed in the past by popular media. Although these portrayals are often not accurate or flattering, they are part of an important record of the history of racial attitudes in this country. All titles are available for research. If you want to watch any of these shows, just make an appointment to use the library!

And now we seek the assistance of the Museum’s Blog readers. Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any information on the above photograph.

And let us know if you’ve heard of additional Seminole related TV shows, documentaries, or movies that we should add to our collection.

 Your assistance will help us to complete our collection of Seminole related audiovisual items.

Thank you!


Textile Donation Increases Museum’s Ethel Cutler Freeman Holdings

Women’s Seminole patchwork skirt (2011.18.5), maker unidentified



James Powell

Associate Registrar


Recently, Nancy Niles Faesy and her daughter Margaret Faesy MacKenzie donated twelve Seminole patchwork textile items to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The items include women’s and girls’ skirts, a women’s matching sleeveless blouse and skirt, and men’s and boys’ jackets. These beautiful items are welcome additions to the Museum’s textile collection, and they carry the added value of having once belonged to Ethel Culter Freeman. Granddaughter Nancy Niles Faesy and great granddaughter Margaret Faesy Mackenzie tell the Museum that Seminole Tribal members made these textiles and then gave them to Ethel Cutler Freeman, who in turn gave many to members of her family. Nancy Niles Faesy wrote in her donation letter that she felt her grandmother would be pleased that these textile gifts have been returned to the Seminole Tribe of Florida.


This month the Museum again seeks your assistance. We are searching for information on who may have made these items and who may have given them to Mrs. Freeman.  This invaluable information will allow us to link these items directly to Seminole Tribal members and properly place the textiles in the Tribe’s history.  We are also searching for more specific information on the skirt pictured above.  Can you assist us in describing this item? Any information on skirt style, patchwork designs, and date would be helpful.  Please post a comment, or contact the Museum at 877-902-1113, to share your knowledge on this skirt, the textile items made and given to Mrs. Freeman, or any recollections or stories related to her.


We would like to thank the family of Ethel Cutler Freeman for this and all their past donations to the Museum, each item forms a clearer picture of Ethel Cutler Freeman, her relation to the Seminole Tribe, and the culture and history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  To view these textiles, additional items related to Ethel Cutler Freeman, or any museum materials, please call the Museum at 877-902-1113 to make an appointment.  Thank you!








Ethel Cutler Freeman, January 1946
 In 1939, Ethel Cutler Freeman decided to undertake a great adventure.  Already a wife to a successful New York stockbroker and mother to three children, Freeman had become bored with the east coast social life available to her.  A close friend encouraged her to take classes at nearby Columbia University and Freeman quickly found herself under the tutelage of eminent anthropologist Ruth Benedict.  An interest in Native American Tribes soon developed and, while conducting research for the American Museum of Natural History, Freeman discovered the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Freeman decided to take a trip down to the Big Cypress reservation to study and document the Seminoles life in the Everglades.  So began a thirty year relationship between Freeman and members of the Seminole Tribe in Florida.