Anglo-American photographer and ethnologist Edward S. Curtis spent the first three decades of the 20th century taking photographs of Native Americans and recording their language, music and history.

An exhibit of his critically acclaimed — and controversial — magnum opus, “Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian,” opened May 11 at the Muskegon Museum of Art, 296 W. Webster Ave. in Muskegon. It is the largest exhibition in the museum’s history and runs through Sept. 10.

The display includes 723 photographs, 20 bound volumes containing historical notes and 1,500 images, as well as several original field recordings of Native music. It also features objects from Curtis’ life and examples of artifacts found in his photos.

Judy Hayner, MMA director, said the reaction to the exhibit from all over the U.S. has been overwhelming.

“We knew there would be a response, but we had no idea how much,” she said. “We have people coming from Texas, Arkansas, the southern tip of Illinois,” as well as journalists, docents from the Smithsonian and college photography instructors.

“It is immersive, and we are seeing people that are coming back. There’s a lot to absorb, there’s a lot to see,” she said.

Between May 11 and when the Business Journal spoke to Hayner on July 24, “Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian” drew 12,689 visitors from 37 states and 12 countries, compared to 3,787 visitors during the same period last year.

All told, the museum expects to top 20,000 visitors during the run of the exhibit, compared to 6,573 visitors from May 11 to Sept. 10, 2016, and 20,000 visitors in the entire 2016 fiscal year.

As of July 11, admissions revenue was up more than 800 percent from the same time last year.

“This is setting the largest run of attendance for us in recent history,” Hayner said.

To read the entire story, pick up this week's edition of the Grand Rapids Business Journal or visit their website.

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