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Saturday, February 25, 2012

In Their Own Words: Documenting the Leuman Waugh Photograph Collection

Wayengi (Josephine Ungott, daughter of Andrew Uziva)
and Napaaq (Florence Maligutkaq, daughter of
Peter Aghnilu) from Gambell, dressed in winter
clothing. (N42725)
We have previously written about the Leuman Waugh collection (photographs and papershere and here. However, this post serves to highlight an amazing new book recently published by the Arctic Studies Center (ARC), at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), entitled "Neqamikegkaput (Faces We Remember): Leuman M. Waugh's Photography from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, 1929-1930," edited by I. Krupnik and V. Oovi Kaneshiro. This book is the culmination of over ten years of work to properly document, describe, and enhance a portion of the Waugh photographs from two Yuit (Siberian Yup'ik) communities on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska; Gambell (Sivuqaq) and Savoonga (Sivungaq). In an agreement between the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and the NMNH, two Arctic cultural anthropologists, Igor Krupnik and Stephen Loring, together with NMAI Archive Center staff, decided to focus on the St. Lawrence Island set of images since the photographs from this area were one of the largest and most significant among the individual communities in the Alaska region.

The anthropologists worked extensively with numerous St. Lawrence Island community elders and regional knowledge experts to properly identify individuals, places, and lifeways depicted in the images. More importantly, however, the community experts recreated hundres of personal narratives to accompany the images, essentially giving new life and context to the images. According to the authors, "the photographs offerred critical information on personalities, people's lifestyles, and local scenes depicted by a caring, though uninformed, medical doctor on his short visits to the community."

Kingungha (Thelma Apatiki, born 1903), wife of
Homer Apatiki, with her son Akinginaaq
(Holden Apatiki, born 1929). (N42747)

The image to the right is just one of hundres of photographs that have new data and narratives to bring it new life and context. Below is inforamtion shared by Kepelgu (Willis Walunga):

"The woman in the picture is Kingungha of Gambell. She is carrying baby boy, Holden Akinginaaq dressed in St. Lawrence Island qallevak, which is worn by children of the village in their young age. Children are always carried that way by their mothers even when she is working when baby-siiters are not around.

She was wife of Homer Apatiki, son of Suluk. They lived in a pre-cut tall lumber two-story house. Tha builing was the tallest in the village of Gambell. The family lived upstairs and I was very close with their elder son Ralph Anaggun, about my age, little younder. We grew up together, even sometimes I spent the night with him and other friends at his place. We have good memories growing up together up to this day."

Copies of images were also provided to the various communities that were then shared in people's houses, public offices, calendars, newspapers, books and an exhibit catalog.The project represents the larger goal of both NMAI and NMNH to conduct collaborative curation and "knowledge repatriation" with indigenous communities. We will be continuing this on-going project by inputting much of this gathered data into our collections management system. We hope to have the data and portions of the narratives included in our on-line database system in the near future to share with the general public. In the meantime, please check out this wonderful new book and see other images from the Waugh collection here.

--Jennifer R. O'Neal, NMAI Archive Center


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