Manifest Destiny and the American West, 1850-1950

This collection illustrates the movement of settlers into Western regions of the United States and the depiction and interpretation of this movement by visual artists. By 1850, although many U.S. Americans understood the shape of the nation to be fixed, indigenous people continued to contest these claims. At the same time, technological developments made photography widely available to European Americans. This historical conjuncture meant that the settlers and the U.S. government's expropriation of native land was aided by the circulation of the first photographic images of the West.

This collections invites a critical look at the representation and effect of Manifest Destiny, and ideology that explained European American violence and colonialism as the pre-determined unfolding of what was mean to be . This body of work raises important and challenging questions about racial stereotyping, the seizure of land from native populations, and the preservation and destruction of natural resources. What this portfolio can also show is the shifting and changing images of the American West over time, for example: from the focus on “cowboys and Indians” of Huffman and Kenyon to the sublime natural expanses of Ansel Adams.

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