Often times in collections we discover materials that are unexpected, rare, or just plain fabulous. The following images are all of the above. Several years ago, when processing a set of negatives from the Institute of Science, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a set of photographic images of Native Americans, primarily Odawa/Ottawa from Leelanau County in northern Michigan. They were taken by Walter E. Hastings (1887-1965) between 1928-1933. Hastings was a naturalist, photographer, and lecturer, and was Michigan’s first conservation film-maker.
Hastings’s interest in nature began as a child when his mother put together a collection of stones, shells, and Native American artifacts for him with the hope that he might become a naturalist. Clearly, it worked! His interest in photography began in 1918 when he received an inexpensive camera for Christmas from his boy scout troop. From 1921-1932, Hastings worked for the University of Michigan Museum as the “Custodian of Birds’ Eggs.” In that capacity, he served as a collections manager, enlarging and arranging the collection, and took numerous photographs which documented the nesting habits of Michigan birds. Employed as the photographer for the Michigan Department of Conservation from 1926-1951, Hastings was a pioneer of wildlife and conservation photography.
The Institute of Science has several Odawa/Ottawa and Chippewa objects, collected and donated by Hastings, from the same geographical region where the photographs were taken. It is likely that the photographs were donated to the Institute of Science along with the artifacts. The Institute of Science photograph collection was later transferred to Cranbrook Archives. The Walter E. Hastings collection is located at the Archives of Michigan (MS 88-27).
~ Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist