Philanthropist Harriet Bullitt has just made a major donation to the Seattle Public Library.

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Philanthropist Harriet Bullitt has made a major donation to the Seattle Public Library – she’s giving the library her copies of photographer Edward Curtis’ landmark collection of photographs on the North American Indian.

According to the library’s announcement, “The North American Indian” is a collection of 20 informational books and 20 books of large images, written and photographed by Curtis and his collaborators over the course of nearly 30 years, detailing the traditions and customs of more than 80 of North America’s native nations.

“I treasure this collection, which was given to me by my mother,” Bullitt said in a statement. “The Seattle Public Library is the perfect place for it.”

Curtis, whose home base was in Seattle, had a deep sense of mission about his project – he believed the Native American tribes were facing extinction (his story is detailed in Seattle author Timothy Egan’s book “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher”). Each published set was accompanied by 20 large portfolios containing over 2,200 photogravure prints of the people, places and customs Curtis came to know. There were 222 complete sets published.

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Bullitt’s set will be the second complete set in the Library’s Special Collections. The library will create public displays with the books – With two sets in its possession, the Library may also consider loaning portions of its first complete set to other Northwest institutions to leverage the reach of the collection.