Photo Archives

Photo Archives

The Library Photo Archives collection dates back to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. It comprises over 300,000 images in the areas of Anthropology, Botany, Geology, and Zoology. The collection also documents the history and architecture of the Museum, its exhibitions, staff and scientific expeditions.

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    Nina Cummings

    Photography Archivist Gantz Family Collections Center

Photo Archives Collections

Photo Archives - Africa Collection

The Field Museum contains one of the finest collections of Cameroon artifacts from the West African grassfields. In the 1920's, Jan Kleykamp, representing the J .F. G. Umlauff Company in Hamburg, sold a collection of artifacts to the Field Museum. The purchase included 332 ethnological photographs taken in 1912 attributed to a man named Schroeder. The Umlauff collection of images illustrate the use and social context of the artifacts.

A composite of three photographs related to taxidermist Carl Akeley: Akeley standing near a leopard he killed, one scene from the "Four Seasons of the Deer" diorama, and a view of African elephants.

Photo Archives - Carl Akeley Collection

Carl Akeley worked at The Field Museum from 1896 to 1909, collecting and mounting animals for the Museum's exhibitions.  While working at The Field Museum he pioneered a number of advancements in the field of taxidermy.  Among them was a method of sculpting the underlying mannequin that gives all of his work its perfectly lifelike appearance.  Akeley was also ground breaking in posing animals in accurate recreations of their natural habitats.  Akeley's brilliant work can still be seen today in a number of The Field Museum's exhibitions.

A Charles Knight mural depicting an ice age scene with a herd of woolly mammoths and two woolly rhinoceros making their way across the frozen plain.

Photo Archives - Charles Knight Collection

In the early 1920s, among Knight's great admirers was Dr. George Kunz, the renowned gemologist for Tiffany. Visiting Knight's studio, Kunz was struck by the fact that The Field Museum did not own any of Knight's work. Dr. Kunz worked with Knight's daughter Lucy, to secure a contract to create his biggest commission yet: a series of 28 murals to enclose the Museum's new fossil hall. The murals show the development of life on earth, from its earliest origins through the ages of amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Knight and Lucy traveled to Chicago in 1926 to begin the project.

Photo Archives - Malvina Hoffman Collection

In 1930, artist Malvina Hoffman was commissioned to sculpt and cast bronze figures depicting the peoples of the world. The resulting exhibition, The Races of Mankind, is the largest single commission of her work and consists of 104 busts, heads, and life-sized figures. In preparation for the exhibition, Hoffman and her husband, S. B. Grimson, traveled throughout the world to find authentic models for the sculptures. Photographs from the trip appear in her two autobiographies, as well as in several publications about Hoffman.

Photo Archives - Native American Collection

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.

Photo Archives - Philippines Collections

Between 1908-1910, Museum curator Fay-Cooper Cole visited the Philippine Islands and Indonesia and produced over 400 photographs while visiting the areas. Through Edward Ayer and the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Field Museum made copies of the Newberry's collection of Dean C. Worcester's collection of photographs.  Over 2,000 copy negatives were made of the photographs made by Worcester and by his government photographers.

Photo Archives - Urban Landscapes

In October 2006, the Library's Photo Archives began the Urban Landscapes project the goal of which was to use digital technology to create replacement-quality, high-resolution replicas of a collection of over 800 original glass negatives in the collection of the Photo Archives. The images date from 1894 to 1925 and show Chicago and outlying areas’ flora, fauna, parks, and neighborhoods. They also document architectural changes to the Field Columbian Museum in Jackson Park and The Field Museum in its present location in Grant Park.

In a now de-installed diorama, two cavemen standing on rocks point spears at a wild boar. One man holds three dogs on leashes. A fourth dog stands near the other man.

What happened to the Caveman dioramas?

Many generations of adults remember coming to the Museum and being transported back to a time when people were living in caves.  The first of two Neanderthal family dioramas was installed in 1929, in the Hall of Historical Geology which was located on the Museum's 2nd floor. In 1933, the Hall of Prehistoric Man (located on the Museum's Ground Floor) opened with a series of 8 prehistoric scenes.