SAN DIEGO – The San Diego History Center announced today that it has received a $133,829 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to digitize, catalog and make web-accessible 7,118 images (photos and drawings) that document the lives of Indians in San Diego County between 1903 and the 1930s. The collection is the work of Edward H. Davis (1862-1951) and was donated to the History Center in the 1980s by Davis’ family.

Grant funding will off-set costs to hire staff to catalog and scan the images, and to work with the Indian Community to help identify individuals, ceremonies, places and artifacts that appear in the Davis images. Further, a group of scholars will consult on the project to advance knowledge of Indian traditions and culture. The History Center will also partner with the Balboa Park Online Collaborative, which will assume responsibility for many of the technical aspects of the project, to facilitate social tagging of the cataloged records and to ensure the tags can be used to enhance online searches. Davis documented, photographed, studied, and wrote about Indian tribes throughout the Southwest. His work recorded the same communities over time, and captured his subjects in situ. Scholars close to this project have suggested that once properly cataloged the Davis materials will shed new light on Indian culture ranging from economics to Indian astronomy to cultural adaptation. Further, enhanced access to the collection will allow present-day Indians to gather information about their cultural heritage that few other sources can provide.

“No other photographer captured the daily lives of local tribes during the early 1900s in such an intimate and comprehensive manner,” said San Diego History Center Executive Director, David Kahn. “The Davis material is well known to many Indian families in our community. In fact, many individuals have created family albums featuring the Davis photographs because they lack alternative options.” The Davis collection includes photographs of tribes throughout the southwest, including: the Luiseño, Cahuilla, Diegueño/Kumeyaay, Campo, Cocopah, Papago, Apache, Yuma, Seri, Yaqui, Pima, SD History Center, IMLS Grant Recipient Maricopa, Hualapai, Kiliwa, and Comey. It includes 6,680 original black and white photographic prints as well as 4” x 5” and 3.5” x 6” nitrate negatives, there are further manuscript holdings that include Davis’ letters, essays, and 62 journals which feature 438 detailed drawings of people, artifacts, and diagrams of dance ceremonies.

There are 19 Indian reservations in San Diego County, more than in any other county in the United States. The Indian population totals 20,000 on the reservations and in surrounding urban areas.