Northwestern University
Digital Library Collections
Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian
Tables of Contents Search Browse Tribes
  pictograph from title page of volume 10 History of the Project
  This digital edition of The North American Indian appears in 2004, one hundred years after Edward S. Curtis began field-work for the publication. Northwestern University Library’s two-year digitization project has been funded by a National Leadership grant, Preservation or Digitization category, from IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services). Five years ago, in 1998, Northwestern library staff proceeded with an early digitization effort to mount all the photogravure plates from The North American Indian. That project was funded through the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition.

Scope and methods

For this project, the full twenty volumes of approximately 5000 pages of narrative text were scanned. They are presented integrated with the 2226 scans of the photogravure plates, which in the original Curtis work include 1500 images bound in the volumes and the remainder as loose plates in twenty accompanying portfolios.

Both text and plates were scanned with a digital-back view camera and special book cradles developed by JJT, Inc. to protect the construction of the sewn volumes. All plates are color scans, while the text was scanned in grayscale and down-sampled to bi-tonal format for machine text conversion at University of Michigan.

This project aims to serve the web reader by both simulating and enriching the experience of browsing the pages and oversized plates of the original work.
Images of the original pages are coupled with unedited or “raw” text to increase access to the contents. Text encoding at a medium level of detail allows linking from a table of contents to chapters and subchapters as well as individual plates. A “virtual” edition has been created by integrating components of the original publication mounted on servers from two institutions Northwestern and the Library of Congress. We have used a METS schema to integrate all metadata on the text and plate files for delivery and maintenance of the digital content. Descriptive metadata in Dublin Core format already created for the plate scans is now maintained within the METS schema, with an individual record for each image. XML encoding and style-sheets deliver the digital content from the METS structure.

Complementing the Library of Congress American Memory web site

The plate scans are also accessible through Library of Congress’ American Memory web site, in the digital collection entitled Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian: Photographic Images.

Special features are provided on the Library of Congress site, including browsing and searching of keyword indexing of the portfolio images, contextual essays, and gallery views. This complements the material presented on the Northwestern site, which offers the table of contents and illustration lists following the format of the original publication, plus additional background material. The web user can open a window, consult the image indexing on the Library of Congress site, and return to reading the online publication on the Northwestern site.


The project was managed by staff from the Library’s Preservation Department, with the interface and search engine applications executed by the Library Management Systems and web staff. Consulting and contributions came from several other departments of the library as well.





  pictograph from title page of volume 17 Technical Specifications

Scanning Vendors

  • Plates -- JJT, Inc. Austin, Texas
  • Text -- JJT, Inc. Austin, Texas
  • OCR -- University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service

Scanning Equipment

  • Plates -- Kontron MARC II digital camera
  • Text -- Kontron MARC II digital camera

Production dates

  • Plate scanning -- April 1999
  • Text scanning -- May-July 2002
  • OCR -- April-July 2003

Archival files description

  • Plate scans -- TIFF uncompressed, 24-bit color
    • volume plates: 350 ppi, 3000 pixels on long side
    • portfolio plates: 400 ppi, 5000 pixels on long side
  • Text scans -- TIFF uncompressed, 8-bit grayscale, 600 ppi, 6900 pixels on long side

Web files description

  • Plate scans -- JPEG, 24-bit color, high quality 10-15:1 compression
    • large: 1024 pixels on long side
    • medium: 640 pixels on long side
    • small: 366 pixels on long side
  • Text scans -- GIF, bitonal
    • large: 1522 pixels on long side
    • medium: 970 pixels on long side
    • small: 554 pixels on long side

Metadata schema

  • Images – Dublin Core, METS
  • Text – TEI P4
  • Archival files – METS
  • Stylesheets - XSLT

Search engine

  • Oracle 9i with in-house interface


  pictograph from title page of volume 16 Credits

Preservation Department
Tyra Grant, Principal Investigator

Digital Technology Unit
Virginia Kerr, Project Manager
Jeremy Morse, Digital Technology Specialist
Jenny Peel, Digital Project Assistant

Conservation Unit
Deborah Howe, Head, Conservation Treatments
Lesa Dowd, Conservation Technician

Interface Development
Stu Baker, Head, Library Management Systems
Steve DiDomenico, LMS Systems Engineer
Jeremy Morse
Shiva Sankar, Website Developer

Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections
R. Russell Maylone, Curator

Advisory Committee
Michael Babinec, Monographic Cataloger
Stu Baker
Frank Cervone, Assistant University Librarian, Information Technology
Steve DiDomenico
Harriet Lightman, Bibliographer for History, Economics, & Philosophy
R. Russell Maylone
Sally Roberts, Reference Librarian
Claire Stewart, Head, Digital Media Services

Patti Strait, Director of Library Public Relations

Lodestar Interactive, Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico

IMLS logo Project funded by a National Leadership grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services

Home | Site Map | User Tips

About the Site |About the Project | About the Work


Northwestern University Library > Digital Library Collections > The North American Indian

Last updated October 28th, 2003
mailto icon
Northwestern University seal

NUcat | Electronic Resources | Library Home | Search | In the spotlight | Help
Northwestern Home | Calendar: Plan-It Purple | Search | Directories
Northwestern University Library · 1970 Campus Drive · Evanston, IL · 60208-2300
Phone: (847) 491-7658 · Fax: (847) 491-8306 · E-mail:
© Copyright 2003 Northwestern University Library. World Wide Web Disclaimer and Policy Statements