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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Roberts Collection of California Indian Photographs: A Brief Review


Some of our most interesting collections of native American photographs are virtually unknown outside the region of their origin. The collection of photographs taken by Mrs. Ruth K. Roberts and now in the Humboldt Room, Library, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California, is an example. The collection consists of 536 images and contains a large number of original negatives of the northern California coast from Crescent City southward to the mouth of the Klamath River. These, together with copy negatives of original photographs collected by Mrs. Roberts, form a remarkable document of Indian life in the region from about World War 1 into the 1950s. Twenty-nine photographs from the collection are shown here. The captions are based on notes originally written by Mrs. Roberts, many of which were made at the close of her life when she suffered greatly from failing eyesight, and include additions by her son, Harry, "whose memory of events some fifty years before was not necessarily very good." Dr. Pilling has continued to investigate the accuracy of these notes and has clarified some (Arnold Pilling, personal communication 1983). All captions are quoted from Pilling (1969).

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