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Press Room

10/9/2003

Award-Winning George Catlin Web Site is a Key Resource for Lewis and Clark Bicentennial

Media only: Laura Baptiste (202) 275-1595


The Web site "Campfire Stories with George Catlin: An Encounter of Two Cultures" serves as an interdisciplinary resource for teachers celebrating the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the historic journey by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The site address is http://CatlinClassroom.si.edu.

Created by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in conjunction with its exhibition "George Catlin and His Indian Gallery," this site debuted last fall to critical acclaim. It is designed to present different perspectives on issues related to Catlin's art and life as well as commentary on American Indian concerns.

This richly layered site includes virtual campfire discussions moderated by naturalist and writer Peter Matthiessen; commentary from Native American writers and leaders such as Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee), William Least Heat-Moon (Osage/Wa-zha-zhe I-e) and W. Richard West (Southern Cheyenne); and primary source materials including George Catlin's journal. Resources include more than 450 Catlin paintings, one of his sketchbooks, activities and lesson plans, and various photographs and maps. Site content was developed to meet national curriculum teaching standards in history, geography, visual arts, English language arts and science for grades 5–12.

George Catlin (1796–1872), who painted Gen. William Clark in 1832 while in St. Louis, occasionally accompanied Clark to visit nearby Native American tribes. From St. Louis, Catlin journeyed northwestward to the boundless prairies described by Lewis and Clark and painted some of the villages where they had been entertained a quarter of a century earlier. Catlin also visited with and painted Black Moccasin, an aged Hidatsa chief, who recollected meeting Lewis and Clark on their historic journey.

The Web site has been recognized as an excellent resource by both teachers in the classroom and by museum community peers. It is the American Association of Museums 2003 Gold Medal Winner of the MUSE Award in Art and was named the Best Educational Web Site for 2003 by Museums and the Web.

The MUSE Award judges commented, "Across the board, this is an excellent application of technology in the context of art interpretation and education," while the Museums and the Web judges stated, "The interactive component, which plays a major role in any educational process, seems here to be at its highest development."

"The Catlin Web site continues the Smithsonian American Art Museum's long tradition of creating educational tools and our national commitment to online learning," said Elizabeth Broun, the museum's Margaret and Terry Stent Director.

Teachers and students in the metropolitan areas of Kansas City, Los Angeles, Houston and New York City will have a special opportunity to see in person more than 100 Catlin paintings of Plains Indian life when the exhibition "George Catlin and His Indian Gallery" travels to those cities. After opening at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. (Feb. 7–April 18, 2004), the exhibition travels to the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles (May 9–Aug. 4, 2004), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Oct. 10, 2004–Jan. 16, 2005) and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York City (Feb. 26–Aug. 7, 2005).

The Smithsonian American Art Museum collection began with gifts of art donated to the federal government in 1829 and has evolved into the world's most important American art holdings with approximately 40,000 artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries.

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