Descendant Community Media Resources

The Hearst Museum has an extensive North American Media Collection consisting of still photographs, sound recordings, and film. This collection makes the Hearst Museum an important resource for descendant communities.

Still Photographs

The Museum’s collection of still photographs consists of both original prints and negatives. The original prints include those of Edward Curtis, Timothy O’Sullivan, John Hillers, and Carleton Watkins, as well as unique copies of these artists’ works. The Museum’s negatives of ca. 3,500 negatives comprise the largest and most comprehensive collection of ethnographic photographs of California Indians. 

A sample of the collection can be reviewed at the Museum’s Calisphere Archive.

Search the Museum’s North American still photograph collection here

Sound Recordings

The Museum has the largest sound collection in any American anthropology museum. It holds the most comprehensive sound collection for California Indian song and language, and the third largest ethnographic wax-cylinder collection in America, produced between 1901 and 1938. Visit UC Berkeley’s California Language Archive for a catalog of the Museum’s California Indian sound collection. Richard Keeling’s 1991 A Guide to Early Field Recordings at the Robert H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology, is another useful guide to these media.

Search the Museum’s sound recording collection here


Samuel Barrett

The Museum holds what is likely the largest collection of research footage on North American Indians in the United States. Samuel A. Barrett, Berkeley’s first anthropology doctorate (1908), collected most of this material during his National Science Foundation funded American Indian Film Project between 1960 and 1965, yielding 362,569 feet of film from many tribes in the American West. A small collection of the Museum’s films can be viewed at the California Light and Sound Archive here.

Search the Museum’s film collection here


Searching the Hearst Collections Portal

Click here to consult tips for searching the Hearst Museum Portal. The Museum staff is always available to assist descendant communities with their research. Either fill out a collections request form or contact with a specific question.

Addressing Cultural Sensitivity Concerns

The Museum recognizes that individuals and communities have cultural and religious concerns related to the Museum’s collections that must be considered. Based on the input of communities with long-standing relationships with the Museum and the Museum’s Native American Advisory Council, the Museum’s on-line Collections Portal does not display to the general public images of Native American human remains, objects known to have been removed from Native American funerary contexts, or Native American objects identified as “charm stones.” Requests to view these images will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Museum’s Director, with the input of Faculty Curators and Museum staff members, as appropriate.

The Museum will consider requests for the removal of other media from the publicly accessible Collections Portal, on a case-by-case basis. To streamline this process, regarding objects originating from the United States, requests will be accepted from tribal chairpersons or authorized NAGPRA representatives. Requests should be sent to and include a brief statement concerning the nature of the media’s sensitivity and the requestor’s cultural affiliation to the object in question. Requests related to Museum holdings from outside the United States will also be reviewed, with consideration of the authority of the requestor from within a specific cultural community and the relationship of that community to the object at issue.