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.

A Note from the Director on 2012

_MG_9958Its that time of the year again when I have been pegged to write a year end blog. I’m a bit more accustomed to this process after another 365 days but still a bit of a newbie to social networking and all that it entails. By next year though, myself and the museum will be up for all of these 21st century skills and we will have a new long range strategic plan to guide us along the way.

The museum went through a lot this year. We addressed our overall organizational structure, we changed our operating hours and we finished some much needed physical plant improvements. So what does all that mean? Change I suspect. Change that’s inevitable, change that’s difficult and change that’s exciting! I suppose every year runs along this same spectrum but what we also experienced this year was our 15th anniversary!

Along with a spectacular celebration on August 21st, our anniversary year signaled a time for us to tackle a new long range plan. This year we started our final fiscal year of our long range plan and with that comes to discussion of what do we do next?

One thing is for sure, in 2013 we know we will have some outstanding new faces at the planning table as well as many of our “veteran” staff who bring institutional knowledge that is indispensable. I am confident that all of us will take what we’ve learned in our first fifteen years and mold a new long range plan that will take the museum into 2013 and beyond. Our vision, mission and goals may change as we “wordmsmith” but I’m confident that we will stay focused on the horizon, the Tribal members and their living and material culture.

Happy new year and here’s to the next fifteen!

Anne McCudden

Time and Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki March On

Time is an amazing thing. It passes from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day… then months give way to years and before you know it more time has passed than any of us care to admit.  Unless of course you are an institution, then it is a badge of honor and a testament to fortitude and progress. Such is the case with the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

On August 21, the Museum commemorated its 15th anniversary with a celebration honoring the tireless efforts and dedication of the numerous visionaries comprised of Tribal leaders, Tribal citizens, Museum staff, Museum members and visitors who have provided the opportunity to live by our very definition… a place to learn, a place to remember.

With the passing of 15 years, one cannot help but reflect on the magnitude of the progress which has so proudly complimented the unwavering commitment of its founding and working luminaries.  It is an outstanding and significant achievement and occasion that warrants an insightful look back and ahead.

In 1987, the Seminole Tribe of Florida began a comprehensive evaluation of its cultural departments. This study, uncovered the need to further collect, preserve, and communicate, the culture and history of the Seminole people. Always committed to nurturing and sharing tribal customs and traditions, the Tribe has given priority to maintaining cultural rituals that involve participation of Tribal elders alongside Seminole youth. The Tribe also has a long history of encouraging Seminole cultural exchanges with non-Seminole people world-wide. The Tribe’s commitment to this ideal led to the commission of a master plan for the design and implementation of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

In the words of Tribal Chairman James E. Billie, who donated his traditional camp in Big Cypress to develop the Museum, “We have lost priceless knowledge of our people because we failed to properly document and store these documents. Therefore, I believe it is time to develop a museum where we can do these things and share our culture with those who wish to know a little about the Seminole.”

With considerable prowess and deft handling, the former Executive Director and Seminole educator Billy Cypress, along with a small core team of Museum commissioners, set about making the project become a reality. Assembling a collection of items that now rivals most historic houses and small Museums, the work to draft into existence a historical and cultural museum that would preserve the vital history and culture of the Unconquered Seminoles had begun.  

Officially chartered in 1989, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum opened its doors to the public on August 21, 1997. The state-of-the-art curatorial building was completed in early 2004. The Museum became accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) on April 21, 2009; becoming the first ever tribally governed museum to be accredited by the AAM.

By most industry standards this timeline is incredible. And if you have ever stepped foot on the Museum campus you would know it and feel it, quite tangibly. The Museum sits on a 66 acre natural cypress dome and is home to more than 60 indigenous everglades flora and fauna. The one-mile raised boardwalk through the cypress dome is a tremendous feat, worthy of the best naturalists, botanists, birders and outdoor enthusiasts.  The interior of the Museum boasts lifelike dioramas with mannequins molded after actual Tribal members for the most realistic representation of Florida Seminole Indians, as opposed to the more stereotypical non-Indian ethnographic stylized work.

This unique perspective, the Seminole perspective, is what dominates and carries forward throughout the experience. The Seminole tell the story their way, and all who listen are enriched.

Behind the scenes at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, is what truly fascinates and delights, for a staffer like me anyhow. The road to accreditation gained serious momentum from 2005-2009, and with it came the enhanced management of the collections, more intense focus on operational matters, development of educational programs, revitalized marketing efforts and careful stewardship overall.  The process of self-assessment was unyielding, unforgiving, and magical. While daunting and rigorous, it was at once invigorating and highly motivational. And it has been a beauteous privilege to be entrusted with carrying out and enacting the vision of the Tribe and its early Museum proponents.

Also entrusted to us at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, is the future of the Museum. As we round out fifteen years we make plans to broaden the baseline of services to our Tribal constituents and the general public. New programs and exhibitions are being developed to enhance the visitor experience and we are working to make more distance learning opportunities available via a newly designed and more accessible website.  We have produced unique Seminole inspired merchandise to help us drive revenue to sustain the Museum and dazzle the public. We collaborate regularly with area partners and industry affiliates in an attempt to favorably impact the greatest number of people and make thoughtful use of opportunities to gain exposure, share our message and fulfill our mission… for the enrichment of all people.

Naturally, we rely heartily on the support of our Members and donors to make this happen. We thank each and every one of you, welcome others of you and hope we can count on your continued support in the minutes, days, months and years ahead.

For time and Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki march on…. and no one man or woman is an institution.







Dorian Lange is Development Manager at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum


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