National Museum of the American Indian

Edward W. Nelson photographs from New Mexico

Collection ID:
Nelson, Edward William, 1855-1934
September 1888
Physical Description:
19 Photographs
This collection contains 19 photographs of the A:shiwi (Zuni) reservation in New Mexico, September 1888. The photographs may have been shot by field naturalist Edward W. Nelson.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection contains 19 photographs believed to have been shot by Edward W. Nelson in September 1888. The photographs depict scenes from the A:shiwi (Zuni) reservation and surrounding areas in western New Mexico. The photographs include landscapes and flora; activities such as carrying water and husking corn; scenes of the village including gardens and multi-level adobe buildings; and portraits.
The original acquisition paperwork lists E. N. Nelson as the photographer. However, after further research, it is believed that the photographs may have been shot by Edward William Nelson, who was a field naturalist for the U.S. Government and was living in Arizona at the time these photographs were shot. The photographer's handwritten notes that accompanied this set of photographs, indicate that they conducted a previous survey in 1886, which indicates that these images were most likely photographed for professional purposes. Additionally, the handwriting in the NMAI note appears to match the handwriting in Edward W. Nelson's fieldnotes held by Smithsonian Institution Archives. Further research will be required to positively identify the photographer.

Photographs arranged in folders by catalog #.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
It is uncertain if Edward W. Nelson is photographer of this collection or if E. N. Nelson is. Additional research is required.
Below is a biography of Edward W. Nelson from the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives (collection ID: NAA.PhotoLot.171).
Edward William Nelson (1855-1934) was an explorer and naturalist for the United States government known for his studies in Alaska, California and Mexico. Born near Manchester, New Hampshire, Nelson grew up with an ardent interest in birds and the outdoors. With the help of Henry W. Henshaw and Smithsonian Assistant Secretary Spencer F. Baird, he gained a post as a weather observer with the Signal Corps in 1877. Nelson was stationed in St. Michael, Alaska, for the next four years, during which time he collected ethnological data and natural history collections for the Smithsonian Institution. In 1890, Nelson joined the Bureau of Biological Survey of the United States Department of Agriculture as a Special Field Agent on the Death Valley Expedition of Clinton Hart Merriam. After this Expedition disbanded in 1891, Nelson continued to work in California under orders from the Bureau and met his future expedition partner Edward Alphonso Goldman. A three month field survey in Mexico in 1892 evolved into fourteen years of research by the pair, during which they made extensive investigations of Mexican mammalogy, ornithology, and ethnology. Following these studies, Nelson moved into an administrative role in the Bureau, holding appointments as Chief Field Naturalist, 1907-1912; Assistant in Charge of Biological Investigations, 1913-1914; Assistant Chief, 1914-1916; Chief, 1916-1927; and Senior Biologist, 1927-1929.

Emily Moazami
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Robert F. Hale, 1956.
Separated Materials
Handwritten notes by the photographer are in the Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation Records (NMAI.AC.001) in box/folder B297.13a
Processing Information
Collection processed by Emily Moazami, Supervisory Archivist, 2023.

Digital Content

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center. Please submit a written request to For personal or classroom use, users are invited to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not modified in any way, the Smithsonian Institution copyright notice (where applicable) is included, and the source of the image is identified as the National Museum of the American Indian. For more information please see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use and NMAI Archive Center's Digital Image request website.
Conditions Governing Access
Access to NMAI Archives Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email:
Preferred Citation
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Edward W. Nelson photographs from New Mexico, image #, NMAI.AC.311; National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
The National Anthropological Archives and Smithsonian Institution Archives also hold Edward W. Nelson collections.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
A:shiwi (Zuni) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Museum of the American Indian
4220 Silver Hill Rd
Suitland, Maryland 20746-2863