Edward Curtis – The North American Indian

On May 11, 2017, The Muskegon Museum of Art will open an exhibition of national significance and the most ambitious undertaking of this institution’s remarkable 104 year history: Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian.

In Curtis’s 30-year desperate quest to document what he believed to be a “vanishing race,” he organized the greatest artistic collaboration ever, and left in its wake arguably history’s most celebrated photographic and ethnographic achievement. The rich and varied cultures of 80 different First Nation tribes, many of which survive today in 21st century America despite a half millennia of innumerable obstacles, are displayed in Curtis’s photographs.

This project celebrates the artistic genius and lasting cultural legacy of the work of one man who lost everything for his art and passed away in obscurity, while at the same time offering a critical assessment of this work’s meaning to our lives, and especially to the lives of Native Americans, today.


 Kutenai Duck Hunter by Curtis

Exhibition Tickets

  • Adults: $10
  • Students 17 & over, with I.D.: $7
  • Children 16 & under: Free
  • Muskegon Museum of Art Members: Free
    Learn how to become a member!
  • Group Rates are available (20 people or more at $8 per person). Call 231.720.2571 or email Kelli (khepler@mspk12.net) to make group purchases and arrangements.

Buy Tickets Online

Exhibition Hours

  • Special Hours: May 11 through September 10, 2017
  • Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with free admission 4 to 8 p.m., compliments of Meijer

View All 723 Photogravures

Awaiting Return of Snake Dancers by Curtis

Awaiting Return of Snake Dancers Hopi

The most ambitious exhibition undertaken by the Muskegon Museum of Art (MMA) in its 104-year history opens May 11, 2017. Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian is a celebration of the artistic genius and lasting cultural legacy of an early-1900s photographer who sacrificed everything for his art and died in obscurity.

The North American Indian is recognized as one of the greatest artistic collaborations and photographic achievements in history.  Edward S. Curtis’s famous portraits of Native Americans and their landscapes and lifestyles are the result of his decades-long determined and desperate quest to document what he believed was a “vanishing race.”  Curtis lost his health, marriage, and prosperity, dying penniless because of his obsession, but his work changed the way an entire nation viewed the indigenous peoples of North America.  The exhibition offers a critical assessment of this work’s meaning to our lives and to the lives of Native Americans today.

Curtis’s masterpiece consists of 20 volumes of extraordinary ethnographic research.  Each volume, when delivered, was accompanied by a portfolio of photogravures (fine art intaglio-printed photographs).  Ultimately, Curtis published approximately 222 complete sets. The MMA owns set #70, acquired by subscription between 1908 and 1930, and hand-signed by one of Curtis’s most famous patrons, President Theodore Roosevelt.

Curtis’s photographs document the rich, varied cultures of 80 Native American tribes, people who still exist today despite a half millennia of innumerable obstacles.  Over 10,000 Native Americans participated in Curtis’s massive endeavor, resulting in 20 leather-bound books, over 40,000 photographs, 10,000 audio recordings, and a feature film.

Curtis’s images have been extensively exhibited and collected, and have become iconic over the past century.   Organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art, this exhibition will be the largest and most comprehensive survey ever presented of Edward S. Curtis’s masterpiece.  For what may be the first time, the entire collection of all 723 portfolio photographs will be on display.

In addition to the photogravures, the exhibition will include all the bound volumes, original field recordings of Native music, historic objects from Curtis’s life and work, and examples of cultural artifacts represented in the photogravures.

Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian will open at the Muskegon Museum of Art on May 11, 2017, and will run through September 10, 2017. The Museum has committed over 80% of its gallery space for four months to this exclusive and inclusive exhibition.  Visitors will have a unique opportunity to experience first-hand the enormous depth and breadth of Edward Curtis’s vision and scholarship and to consider how Edward Curtis’s images may have influenced our understanding of Native American culture over the past century.

A diverse array of public programming in collaboration with area cultural partners, including the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, will accompany the exhibition.

Major Cultural Partners

Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

Lakeshore Museum Center & Michigan’s Heritage Park




Additional Art & Cultural Partners

Frauenthal Center
Friends of Art-MMA
Hackley Public Library
Lakeshore Art Festival
Loutit District Library
Michigan’s Heritage Park
Muskegon Area District Library
Muskegon Heritage Museum
Muskegon South Pierhead Light
Spring Lake District Library
The Book Nook & Java Shop
USS LST393 Veterans’ Museum
USS Silversides Submarine Museum
White Lake Community Library


Exhibition Underwriters

Underwritten By
Patrick O’Leary
Hines Corp.
Hilt Foundation
Dr. Fred & Deborah Brown
Community Foundation for Muskegon County
Hooker DeJong, Inc.
Jan & Chris Deur
Arconic Foundation
Frank & Susan Bednarek
Jon & Jane Blyth
Deborah DeVoursney
Orville & Susan Crain
Chemical Bank
The Verplank Donor Advised Fund of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation
The John Max Busard & Elizabeth Busard Fund in Memory of Dr. & Mrs. R.I. Busard, an Anonymous Fund, and the Mark & Rosemary Lambert’s Dream Fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County
Allen & Anne Dake
Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services
Eugene & Karen Fethke
Dr. Don & Nancy Crandall
FineLine Creative, Inc.

For underwriting opportunities, contact Kirk Hallman at khallman.mpsk12.net.