The new exhibit, “Memory on Glass,” at the Museum of the Rockies documents western photographer David F. Barry during his time in the Standing Rock Reservation in the Montana and Dakota territories from 1878 to 1891. The exhibit moves through the peak of David F. Barry’s career focussing on the “Americanization” of the Dakota and Lakota tribes and will be on display until Jan. 21, 2018.
The exhibit gives Museum of the Rockies visitors a new look at a historic landmark. The photos from Barry give a visual representation of history and the wild west. Up until this point in history, photography had been considered as a purely mechanical form of documentation. Barry wanted to preserve history in the form of art, which is widely shown throughout his photographs. During this period, photographs were still taken with film and negatives on glass, hence the exhibit title “Memory on Glass.”
Barry began his career in photography working for well-known photographer Orlando Scott Goff, who initially came to the West in the mid 1800’s. He met and hired Barry in Columbus, Ohio in 1873. When the two men came to the West they were met with people wanting to know more about the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place two years previously. Gaff and Barry took to the field documenting the Great Sioux War of 1876, and in 1891 Barry photographed the aftermath of Tatanka Iyotanka’s (also known as Sitting Bull) death.
Unfortunately for Barry, his work was largely forgotten due to the changing view city folks had on the wild west and its inhabitants. Instead of going to Barry to buy an expensive glass print of Native Americans, cowboys and the cavalry, they could more easily go to see the new wild west shows and see history played out in front of them.
Some photos Barry took that were also readily available at these new Wild West shows were of Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and others from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Other photos include “The Society of Joseph,” “The Society of Mary” and Captain Thomas W. Custer, the younger brother of Lt. Col. George Custer. With the help of photographer Paul H. Harbaugh and the Denver Public Library’s Western History Department, the new exhibit “Memory on Glass taking place at Standing Rock Reservation” has shown the world how photography can be both a form of documentation and of art while paving the way for future photographers to expand the production and use of photographs.