Cataloging Project Information



In 2010, the San Diego History Center began work on the project, Enhanced Access to the Edward H. Davis Collection of Indian Photographs and Negatives to catalog, digitize, and make web accessible the Davis Collection. The digitized material in this collection includes 4,435 photographs, 1,084 copy and duplicate negatives, 447 lantern slides and 4,556 field notebook pages. The online database was completed in June 2012. The bulk of the images spans from 1903 to 1947 and primarily documents the lives of Indians in San Diego County, as well as those in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. Photographs and negatives of Davis’ family, friends, his ranch (Cereza Loma) and lodge (Powam Lodge) are also represented.

A primary goal of the project was to work with the San Diego Indian community in order to document information about the images. SDHC staff met with tribal members through community meetings held in Barona, Santa Ysabel, Viejas, Ewiiaapaayp, Pala, and Rincon. Images were presented to attendees and they were asked to share identifying information regarding the locations, people, and items in the images. Their comments about the images were added to the catalog record.

Because Davis had close relationships with many local Indians, he was able to participate in and document sacred ceremonies and dances. In order to address these images properly and treat them with respect, SDHC sought advice through the formation of an Indian Advisory Committee. Members of the Committee came from various tribes including Barona, Jamul, Mesa Grande, Pala, Rincon, San Pasqual, Santa Ysabel, Sycuan, and Viejas.  

Led in part by the Indian Advisory Committee and following the Protocols for Native American Materials (, SDHC has decided to remove from the online database culturally sensitive images depicted in the photographs, negatives, lanterns slides and field notebooks. Instead, catalog records for the sensitive images have been uploaded without an attached image file.

SDHC also formed a Scholarly Advisory Committee to help provide identifying information. These scholars of Indian history and culture participated through a series of meetings both in person and on-line and reviewed the catalog records. They commented on individual images, supplying additional identifying information as well as bibliographical references.

The SDHC Research Library also maintains the E.H. Davis Papers which include the field notebooks, letters, essays, and articles composed by Davis. Material in this collection was cross-referenced to the photographs. Notes were added to the catalog records which related the images to the archival materials. Additional information found on the original negative envelopes was also added to the catalog records.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian also maintains over 2,000 Davis photographs and negatives as well as a large number of objects collected by Davis. Several hundred photographs in the NMAI collection were cross-referenced to the SDHC’s Davis collection. When SDHC images matched those in the NMAI collection or additional information was found in the NMAI record, this was noted in the catalog record.

Previously unprocessed images were numbered, re-housed into new, archival materials, and cataloged. These included 447 lantern slides, 647 prints, and 3,651 nitrate negatives.

Project partner Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC) provided considerable assistance in the creation of the online database and technical support over the course of the project.

Financial support for this project was provided in part by a Museums for America grant by the Institute of Museum and Library ServicesThe Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.  

Additional funding was provided by Wells Fargo Foundation.

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click here for a reproduction order form. All image use, other than home, business display, or research will have an additional use fee. It is the policy of SDHC, a non-profit museum, to charge licensing fees for the use of these images which helps fund ongoing efforts to care for our collection and make it available to the public. If you would like to obtain permission to use these images, please contact us at or 619-232-6203 x 127.