A New Way to Explore Bureau of Indian Affairs Photographs

The National Archives launched a new web-based finding aid featuring digitized historical photographs from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) records in Record Group 75. For the first time, you can explore digital copies of over 18,000 photographs through an engaging and easy to use interactive experience: the Bureau of Indian Affairs Photographs Finding Aid.

The landing page provides a quick path to explore the photographs by Tribal Nation, topic, or state. For users who might be unsure of where to start, the finding aid allows users to select any of the photographs displayed on the landing page to learn more, and to further their exploration with paths to related photographs.

Additionally, this finding aid provides entry points into the records through interactive maps and data visualizations.

Extensive research of users and stakeholders and user testing were conducted to ensure this finding aid is useful to a broad spectrum of users. Users and stakeholders consulted included archivists and other information science professionals with experience in Native American records, members of Tribal Nations, and representatives of organizations with connections to Tribal communities.

These users and stakeholders also provided feedback on the topics used in the finding aid. Once the topics were finalized based on this feedback, we curated the photographs into the Native American Photographs Tagging Mission to recruit the help of citizen archivists in tagging the photographs with topics to be pulled into the finding aid. We are grateful for the help of our citizen archivists to develop NARA’s first crowdsourced finding aid – their work made it possible to organize and present these photographs by topic in 28 categories including agriculture, art and artifacts, portraits and much more.

NARA experts in user-experience and technical development, archivists and subject matter experts worked together to develop the finding aid. The finding aid uses the National Archives Catalog API so when new records are digitized and added to the Catalog, they automatically get pulled into the finding aid. Additionally, the finding aid uses the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) – a standardized framework for cultural institutions to provide access to images online – for an optimal design and user experience in viewing the photographs on all types of devices.

This is a living project that will continue to grow and evolve as NARA digitizes more photographs from the Bureau of Indian Affairs records. Therefore, some Tribal Nations, topics, and geographic areas may not be fully represented. As NARA digitizes and makes more photographs publicly accessible, they will be made available through this finding aid. 

Please visit the Bureau of Indian Affairs Photographs Finding Aid and let us know what you think, and be sure to check back to see this project grow as more photos are added as they are digitized and made available.

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