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Guide to the Gertrude Duby Blom exhibit photographs, 1940s-2004 and undated

Abstract

Gertrude Duby Blom (1901-1993) was a Swiss-born journalist, anthropologist, and environmental activist who documented the cultures of indigenous Mayan people in the jungle highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. Collection comprises 71 black-and-white exhibit prints featuring images taken by Gertrude Duby Blom between 1941 and 1979 in the highland jungles and towns of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The photographs were printed in 1982 by Barry Norris, Blom's close friend and collaborator, for a traveling exhibition that opened in 1984 in New York City. The landscapes and portraits depict the cultural and ecological environments inhabited by individuals and groups of indigenous Maya, predominantly the Lacandon; there are also images of Latino immigrants to the region, chiefly lumber industry workers and their families, and other townspeople in San Cristobal. Scenes from camps and towns portray mealtimes, hunting and gathering expeditions, agricultural customs, religious ceremonies, folk Catholicism and its rituals, classrooms, medical clinics, and street scenes. Later images attest to the destruction of the jungle and the changing culture of the native inhabitants. The matted gelatin silver prints vary in size from 11x14 to 22x22 inches; there is also one 26x26 inch matted print. Accompanying the photographs are project correspondence, notes, publicity, and other materials (1983-20043) documenting the collaboration between Alex Harris, documentary photographer from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and individuals in Mexico and the U.S., which resulted in a major exhibit, "People of the forest: photographs of the Maya by Getrude Blom," launched in 1984, and the publication of "Gertrude Blom: bearing witness" (1984). Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Gertrude Duby Blom exhibit photographs
Extent
9.0 linear feet, Approx. 420 items
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Collection Overview

Collection comprises 71 black-and-white exhibit prints featuring images taken by anthropologist, activist, and journalist Gertrude Duby Blom between 1941 and 1979 in the highland jungles and towns of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The photographs were printed in 1982 by Barry Norris, Blom's close friend and collaborator, for a major exhibition of her work that opened in 1984 in New York City.

The landscapes and portraits taken by Blom depict the cultural and ecological environments inhabited by individuals and groups of indigenous Maya, predominantly the Lacandon, but also neighboring Tzotzil and Tzeltal; there are also images of Latino immigrants to the region, chiefly lumber industry workers and their families, and other townspeople in San Cristobal. Scenes from camps and towns portray mealtimes, hunting and gathering expeditions, agricultural customs, religious ceremonies, folk Catholicism and its rituals, classrooms, medical clinics, and street scenes. Later images starkly attest to the destruction of the jungle and the changing culture of the native inhabitants. The matted gelatin silver prints vary in size from 11x14 to 22x22 inches; there is also one 26x26 inch matted print.

Accompanying the photographs are files of project correspondence, notes, publicity, and other materials (1983-2004) documenting the collaboration between Alex Harris, documentary photographer of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and individuals in Mexico and the U.S., which resulted in a major international traveling exhibit, "People of the forest: photographs of the Maya by Getrude Blom," launched in 1984, and the publication of a book of essays and images, "Gertrude Blom: bearing witness" (1984), edited by Alex Harris and Margaret Sartor.

Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48-hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Exhibit Prints, 1941-1982

7 boxes

Series of 71 exhibit prints of black-and-white images taken by Gertrude Duby Blom between 1941 and 1982 in the highland jungles and towns of Chiapas, Mexico. The photographs were printed in 1982 by Barry Norris, Blom's close friend and collaborator since 1977. The matted prints are arranged in groups by size, from 11x14 to 22x22 inches (mat sizes), accompanied by a larger matted print measuring 26x26 inches. Within size groups, prints are arranged by year. Captions are taken from original text printed on the mats beneath each image.

Pepe Castillo, Lacandon, Monte Libano, 1943
Box 1
Image RL_10084_P_001
Vicente Bor performing religious ceremony with corn gruel, Lacandon, Jataté River, 1950
Box 1
Image RL_10084_P_002
K'in García in dugout canoe, Lacandon, Najá, 1958
Box 1
Image RL_10084_P_003
Zapatista, Yautepec, 1941
Box 2
Image RL_10084_P_004
Ladino women, Malinalco, 1944
Box 2
Image RL_10084_P_005
Lacandon man, Najá, 1948
Box 2
Image RL_10084_P_006
Don Florentino with his son, Tzeltal, Jetjá, 1943
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_007
Manuel Castellanos, Tzotzil, assisting voter registration of Chamula Indians, 1946
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_008
Pedro Contreras with armadillo, San Quintín, 1946
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_009
Mahogany loggers at the Lacanjá River, Montería, 1948
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_010
Vicente Chaqueta with his son, Lacandon, Censo, 1948
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_011
Calle Diego Dugelay, San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1951
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_012
Chan K'in Viejo weighing tobacco, Lacandon, Najá, 1952
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_013
Medical clinic of the National Indian Institute, Chamula, 1952
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_014
Vicente Bor, with sons K'in and K'ayum, leaving the jungle for Na Bolom, Lacandon, El Real, 1952
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_015
Zinacantec nurse in the National Indian Institute, Tzotzil, Zinacantán, 1952
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_016
Chenalhó religious official in the market, Tzotzil, Chalchihuitán, 1954
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_017
Lacandon jungle between Las Margaritas and San Quintín, Tojolobal Indians, 1955
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_018
Ladino man on horseback, Santiago, 1955
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_019
Festival of San Sebastián, Tzotzil, San Bartolomé de los Llanos, 1955
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_020
Preparation for the Festival of San Andrés: sacristans building the sacred path, Tzotzil, San Andrés, 1956
Box 3
Image RL_10084_P_021
Tzotzil actors during the Festival of San Sebastián, Zincantán, 1958
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_022
Vincente Bor performing god house ceremony, Lacandon, Jataté, 1958
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_023
Zinacantec musicians, Tzotzil, Navenchauc, 1958
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_024
Zinatec boys at political rally for López Mateos, Tzotzil, San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1958
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_025
Chamula women, Tzotzil, Romerillo, 1959
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_026
Lacandon boy, Cedro, 1959
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_027
Lacandones from Monte Libano, El Real, 1959
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_028
Chilón, 1960
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_029
Masked dancer, Tzotzil, Chenalhó Carnival, 1960
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_030
The Fire Run, Tzotzil, San Juan Chamula Carnival, 1960
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_031
Tzeltal woman in the market, Yajalón, 1961
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_032
Chan K'in Viejo with his son, K'in García, in the god house, Lacandon, Najá, 1963
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_033
Celestino, Lacandon, Lacanjá Chan Sayab, 1964
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_034
Old Tzotzil man, San Andrés, 1965
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_035
Tzotzil cutting hair, Chilil, 1965
Box 4
Image RL_10084_P_036
San Andrés Indians visiting Santiago, Tzotzil, Santiago, 1967
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_037
Magdalenas dressing the saint for a visit to Santa Marta, Tzotzil, 1968
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_038
Ladino students reenacting Aztec history, San Miguel Mitontic, 1969
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_039
Chamula family on the road to Tzmtehaitz, Tzotzil, The Sacred Mountain of Chamula, 1971
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_040
Tzotzil captains and patron in festival procession, Santiago, 1971
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_041
K'ayum and Pedro K'ayum, Lacandon, Lacanjá Chan Sayab, 1972
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_042
Tzotzil men in front of the church, Santiago, 1974
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_043
Chan K'in Viejo with his wife Koh, Lacandon, Trudi's camp at Najá, 1976
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_044
Chan K'in Presidente, Mateo Viejo, and K'in Garcia in the highlands, Lacandon, 1977
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_045
K'ayum Ma'ax, Lacandon, Najá, 1977
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_046
Lacandon women making clay figures to sell, Najá, 1978
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_047
K'ayum Ma'ax with accordion, Lacandon, Najá, 1979
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_048
Chamula boy carrying burlap bag of pine boughs for a ceremony, Tzotztil, undated
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_049
Clearing land, Frontera Corozal
Box 5
Image RL_10084_P_050
Lacandon men near the Chocoljá River, Arena, 1948
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_051
Old Tzotzil man carrying wheat, Huistán, 1952
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_052
Chamula teacher with Zinacantec students, Tzotzil, Ichin Ton, 1953
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_053
Father Bermudez with festival officials, Tzotzil, San Juan Chamula Carnival, 1955
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_054
Zinacantec musicians, Tzotzil, Festival of San Sebastián, San Bartolomé de los Llanos, 1955
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_055
Pedro K'ayum cutting down ceiba tree with machete, Lacandon, Jataté, 1958
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_056
Religious procession in the barrio of San Felipe, San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1958
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_057
Kimbor, Lacandon, Najá, 1959
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_058
K'in Obregon, Lacandon, ruins of Lacanjá, 1961
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_059
The Saint, San Andrés, visiting at the Festival of Santiago, Tzotzil, Santiago, 1962
Box 6
Image RL_10084_P_060
Chamula woman and child at Mitontic Festival, Tzotzil, San Miguel, 1963
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_061
Ceiba, The Sacred Tree of the Maya, Yaxchilán, 1967
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_062
Religious procession, Tzotzil, San Miguel Mitontic, 1967
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_063
Cut mahogany, Lacandon jungle near Lacanjá Chan Sayab, 1968
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_064
Gourd tree, Huitiupán, 1972
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_065
Chamula woman praying to San Miguel, Tzotzil, San Miguel Mitontic, 1973
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_066
Lacandon jungle between Sibál and Najá, 1974
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_067
Religious official, Tzotzil, Santiago, 1974
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_068
Lacanjá River, 1975
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_069
Cut mahogany, Najá, 1979
Box 7
Image RL_10084_P_070
Deforested hillside, Lacandon jungle between El Real and Najá, 1982
Oversize-Folder 1

Exhibit Project Records, 1983-2004 and undated

1 box

Series is comprised of correspondence, notes, financial records, and travel schedules relating to the creation and curation of the exhibit, People of the Forest: Photographs of the Maya by Gertrude Blom, which opened at the International Center of Photography in New York City in April 1984. The documents are accompanied by a large publicity poster for the "People of the Forest" exhibit (1984), and two copies of the book, released the same year as the exhibit, Gertrude Blom: Bearing Witness. Series is arranged in chronological order; original folder titles have been retained.

"People of the Forest" exhibition, text and panels, 1983 November 22-1995 March 28 and undated
Box 8
"People of the Forest" exhibition, correspondence, 1983 December 12-1998 April 16
Box 8
Na Bolom, correspondence and records, 1988 April-1998 March 3
Box 8
Environmental programming, 1997 September 3-1998 March 3
Box 8
Exhibit redesign by the Smithsonian, 1997 December 9-2003 July 7 and undated
Box 8
Asheville (N.C.) exhibit, 1999, 1998 July 13-1999 November 17 and undated
Box 8
Alex Finlayson, proposal for play about Blom, circa 1998
Box 8
"People of the Forest" exhibit poster, 1984
Box 7

Historical Note

Gertrude Duby Blom (1901-1993) was a journalist, anthropologist, and activist of Swiss descent who spent more than 40 years documenting the Mayan cultures of Chiapas, Mexico. She married Kurt Duby in 1925; they divorced several years later. Forced to emigrate from her native country in 1930s because of her Socialist and anti-Fascist activities, she traveled to England, then made her way to Mexico City, where she began a long association with the Mexican people and their country.

A major turn in life occurred when Blom met with anthropologists who were studying the native peoples of central Mexico's highlands and jungles; on one of her first trips she encountered the Lacandon tribe of Mayan Indians, who had only just been in contact with Europeans since the late 1880s. In 1943, anthropologist Frans Blom invited her to join an expedition to the cloud forests of Chiapas, thus beginning a lifelong alliance. The Bloms, who married in 1951, focused all of their research, support, and patrimony on this area of Chiapas and on the Lancandon in particular, studying and documenting the plight of indigenous peoples from the 1940s to the 1980s as settlers deforested their territory and brought their way of life to an end.

In the 1950s, Gertrude and Frans established Casa Na Bolom (House of the Jaguar), a research center and hostel, which also served as a center for a support network for the Lacandon and other indigenous peoples. By the 1970s the Bloms has also shaped it into an active center for environmental activism in support of the jungles of Chiapas, threatened by mining, logging, and modern methods of farming.

Blom published her first collection of photographs in 1984, Gertrude Blom - bearing witness, sponsored by the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University and guided to publication by Alex Harris and Margaret Sartor of the CDS. A major exhibit of Blom's images opened in New York City in 1984, titled People of the Forest: photographs of the Maya by Gertrude Blom, and traveled subsequently to major cities in the U.S. and overseas through the 2000s.

Gertrude Duby Blom passed away December 23, 1993, and is buried in La Selva Lacandona alongside her husband, Frans Blom.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Gertrude Duby Blom exhibit photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Provenance

The Gertrude Duby Blom exhibit photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a transfer from the Center for Documentary Studies in 2013.

Processing Information

Processed by: Levi Crews and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, February 2014

Encoded by Levi Crews and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, March 2014

Accessions described in this finding aid: 2013-0144