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Tlingit photo collection ‘not like anything else’ donated to Sealaska Heritage Institute

One photograph out of thousands taken by Cyril George recently donated by his family to the Sealaska Heritage Institute.
One photograph out of thousands taken by Cyril George recently donated by his family to the Sealaska Heritage Institute.(Sealaska Heritage Institute)
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 5:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A collection of photographs believed to be the largest collection taken by a Tlingit person will soon give anyone wanting to learn more about the history and culture of Angoon a unique window into the past.

Last month, the family of the late Cyril George donated an estimated 4,000 photographs to the Sealaska Heritage Institute. George, who died in 2014 at the age of 92, was a Tlingit elder, former mayor and councilman in Angoon, and was generally very involved in the community.

The photographs span more than 70 years and depict everything from community celebrations and sporting events to fishing.

“It’s a long term collection of a person inside the community, inside the culture. What it looks like to him, what he felt was important. What he thought was of value to record and to document and what he saw happening,” Chuck Smythe, director of Culture and History at Sealaska Heritage Institute. “And it just creates an insider’s view of life in a small village in Southeast over a long period of time.”

Before the photographs can be archived, they will be treated to prevent damage from insects or mold. Smythe says the goal is to make them publicly available soon so that other community members can help identify who and what the photos captured. Smythe says the institute will either apply for a grant or rely on volunteers to digitize the thousands of images.

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