Between 1895 and 1910, the Museum collected most of its Native American ethnological and archaeological material to augment the collections obtained from the World's Columbian Exposition. Between 1897 and 1898, free-lance photographer Edward Allen and Museum curator George Dorsey documented the daily activities, ceremonies and peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, and the plains, plateau and desert regions of the western United States.
In 1899, Charles H. Carpenter was hired as the Museum's first full-time, professional photographer. He remained in that position until his retirement in 1947. Carpenter went with curators on several early expeditions including the 1900 Stanley McCormick-sponsored expedition which produced over 1,200 negatives of the Hopi Indian tribes. Carpenter and H.R. Voth, a missionary to the Hopi from 1893 to 1902, and ethnologist for the Field Columbian Museum, photographed daily activities and life of the villagers. Voth lived with the Hopi for several years. Photographer Sumner Matteson, under the direction of Dorsey, added other photographs of the Hopi to the Collection. Soon after these photography excursions, the United States Government severely restricted the use of cameras on Hopi reservations, and eventually banned them entirely.
John W. Hudson spent his life as a collector-scholar, and he amassed a significant number of California Indian baskets held by The Field Museum. The Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Museum and Hudson Museum in Ukiah, California also have material collected by Hudson. Photographs in The Field Museum's possession document the native Pomo, Yurok, Miwok and Hupa from 1900 to 1905 when Hudson was collecting artifacts under Dorsey's auspices. Hudson visited more than twenty tribes and photographed traditional activities such as basket-making, acorn-grinding and other aspects of daily life. In many cases, these photographs are the only visual record of such activities. The Hudson collection contains over 450 negatives. J. W. Hudson's field notes and papers were deposited at the Sun House (also called the Hudson Museum). Other strengths in the Collection of Native American culture include Dorsey and Carpenter's photographs of Cheyenne life, Matteson's prints of the Blackfoot tribe, and S. C. Simms' Crow and Cheyenne photographs.