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Catalog Data

Cordry, Donald Bush  Search this
Former owner:
Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation  Search this
93 Photographic prints
9 Negatives (photographic)
24 Copy negatives
Indians of Mexico  Search this
Nahua  Search this
Guerrero Nahua  Search this
Purepecha (Tarasco)  Search this
Tzotzil Maya  Search this
Wixarika (Huichol)  Search this
Chinantec [Chinantla]  Search this
Cora  Search this
Yoreme (Mayo)  Search this
Zoque  Search this
Otomí (Otomi)  Search this
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Photographic prints
Negatives (photographic)
Copy negatives
Images consist mostly of portraits of the indigenous people in the Mexican states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz. The collection primarily contains images of Wikarika (Huichol) people, but includes images of the Purepecha (Tarasco), Guerrero Nahua, Chinantec [Chinantla], Zoque, Otomí (Otomi), Tzotzil Maya, Yoreme (Mayo) and Zapotec peoples.
Scope and Contents:
The Donald Bush Cordry collection primarily contains photographic prints and negatives made by Cordry while he collected objects from 1935 to 1938 on behalf of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. Photographic materials from his private 1933 trip to Guerreo and a few taken around 1940 are also housed in the collection. The photographs depict the native peoples of the Mexican states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, and Veracruz and represent people preparing food, making masks, pottery and textiles, and dressing for and participating in ceremonies. In addition there are village scenes and informal portraits of individuals. Series 1: Michoacán and Guererro States, includes images shot within the Purepecha (Tarasco) and Guererro Nahua communities between 1935 and 1936. (Negatives: N21118-N21126; Prints: P11986- P12008; Copy Negatives: N36725-N36731) Series 2: Nayarit and Sinaloa States, is the largest series and includes images shot in various Wixarika (Huichol) villages in 1937 and depicts many ceremonial functions. (Prints: P12659-P12672, P12880-P12887, P13273-P13275, P13386-P13414; Copy Negatives: N36855-N36863, N41431-N41432) Series 3: Oaxaca, Chiapas, Sonora and Mexico States, includes images from various culture groups from around 1940. These include Chinantec [Chinantla], Zoque, Otomí (Otomi), Tzotzil Maya, Yoreme (Mayo) and Zapotec. (Prints: P15052-P15053, P15202-P15203, P15347-P15348, P16553-P16562; Copy Negatives: N37306-N37307, N37335-N37336, N37506-N37507) The photographic prints are all silver gelatin (DOP) and are a range of sizes. The majority of the negatives are copy negatives made by the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation during a photo conservation project in the 1960s.
Arrangement note:
Arranged into three series by date and geographical location. Series 1: Michoacán and Guererro States: Purepecha (Tarasco), Guererro Nahua, 1933, 1935-1936; Series 2: Nayarit and Sinaloa States: Wixarika (Huichol), 1937; Series 3: Oaxaca, Chiapas, Sonora States: Various communities, circa 1940. Within each series the prints and negatives are physically arranged by catalog number.
Biographical/Historical note:
Starting in high school, Donald Bush Cordry was deeply committed to theatrical set design and puppetry and while attending the Minneapolis Institute of Art began to carve his own wooden marionettes and hand puppets. In 1931, Cordry made his first trip to Mexico (Guerrero) and become fascinated by contemporary Mexican Indian art, especially mask making. In 1934, Cordry moved to New York to work as a marionette designer for puppeteer Tony Sarg and soon contacted George G. Heye to learn more about Mexican Indian art. From 1935 to 1938, Cordry collected Mexican masks and other art forms on behalf of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. On his first 1935 collecting trip for Heye, Cordry traveled throughout the states of Michoacán and Guerrero and collected carved and painted dance masks. In 1936, Cordry married fellow artist Dorothy Mann. Shortly after their wedding, the newlyweds traveled by horseback for six months through Nayarit, Jalisco, and southern Sonora and extensively collected among and photographed the Huichol, Cora and Mayo Indians. The couple moved to Mexico in 1938, first settling in Oaxaca; in the mid-1940s, no longer working for Heye, they relocated to Mexico City. There Cordry established his own design business and produced decorative Mexican folk art-style crafts. His business was highly successful and his work was featured in House and Garden magazine. The couple moved to Cuernavaca, where in 1953 Cordry suffered a stroke and was forced to close his workshop. His stroke also put an end to his traveling and collecting activities. Deeply interested in the history and traditions of Mexican Indians, Cordry assembled an extensive reading library of pre- and post-conquest Mexico materials and together with his wife published "Costumes and Textiles of the Aztec Indians of the Cuetzalan Region, Puebla, Mexico" (1940); "The Costumes and Weaving of the Zoque Indians of Chiapas, Mexico" (1941); and, most importantly, "Mexican Indian Costumes" (1968). Cordry's monumental "Mexican Masks" (1980) was published shortly after his death. Cordry died in Cuernavaca, Mexico, at the age of 71.
Related Materials:
There are around 900 ethnographic items collected by Donald Cordry in Mexico in the National Museum of American Indian's ethnology collections. For more information about these materials contact NMAI Collections. The National Anthropological Archives (National Museum of Natural History) holds several collections of Donald B. Cordry photographs. See: NAA Photo Lot 87-38, NAA Photo Lot 82-14, and NAA Photo Lot 80-3. The Donald Cordry Mexican mask collection at Natural History can be found in the Department of Anthropology in accession 355867.
The majority of the Donald Cordry photographs came to the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation along with field collections in 1936 and 1938. There were additional donations of photographs made by Cordry in 1937, 1940, 1941 and 1943.
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email:
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to For personal or classroom use, users are invited to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not modified in any way, the Smithsonian Institution copyright notice (where applicable) is included, and the source of the image is identified as the National Museum of the American Indian. For more information please see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use and NMAI Archive Center's Digital Image request website.
Indians of Mexico -- Social life and cutoms  Search this
Indians of Mexico -- Rites and ceremonies  Search this
Nayarit (Mexico)  Search this
Photographic prints
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Donald B. Cordry photographs from Mexico, Item Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Donald B. Cordry photographs from Mexico
Archival Repository:
National Museum of the American Indian