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While serving as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Thomas Loraine McKenney was commissioned to collect portraits of Native Americans. Recognizing the perilous position of his subjects, he vowed to preserve  “in the archives of the Government whatever of the aboriginal man can be rescued from the destruction which awaits his race.” The result of his efforts became History of the Indian Tribes of North America, published in three volumes between 1838 and 1844 with text by James Hall. Watch a  short video about this book.  Read Vol 1 and Vol 2  online.

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Between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Benin Empire ruled the area of present day Nigeria. During this time, many highly refined bronze and ivory objects were produced for the royal court. At the end of the 19th century, European missionaries encountered these extraordinary objects during the Benin Expedition of 1897, and later much of the artwork accumulated over the centuries by the nobility were stolen and Benin City razed, in retaliation for violence directed at the European foreigners. As a result, today as few as fifty pieces remain in Nigeria, although approximately 2400 pieces are held in European and American collections, such as the British Museum.

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A collection of fascinating maps and views of the Holy Land and surrounding areas – included are a various maps of Jerusalem, and important landmarks, views of Rama and Bethlehem by Cornelius de Bruijin during Ottoman control of the area, and a map of the 12 tribes. Click on the links in the image caption for more background on each item. These images were available on Wikimedia Commons by Geographicus Rare Antique Maps.

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This gallery includes representation of native dress of the Americas from a variety of sources. Many of the prints featured are the work of Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, a French diplomat, prolific author and illustrator, who served in Egypt and the Middle East. The costumes he depicted were derived from the popular voyage accounts of that time, including those of Captain Cook. View images from his Costumes de Differents Pays (1797) – via the The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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An enchanting collection of maps and charts detailing important ports and cities of the Mediterranean Sea by Piri Reis, an Ottoman admiral, geographer, and cartographer. Included in this gallery are maps of Cairo, Venice, Nardo, Gallipoli, and oases along the Nile, rendered in bright jewel tones and gilding. Browse the entire book at the Walters Art Museum.

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A collection of prints and paintings of Samurai, the military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan. The  elaborate armor and weapons used by these warriors is depicted in colorful woodcuts, also included are historical figures and events, as well as, later depictions of Samurai by famous actors.

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A wonderful collection of European maps by cartographers such as Willem Blaeu, Abraham Ortelius and Jan Janssonius – included maps of France, Russia, Crete and the Greek islands, The Empire of Charlemagne and more. Click on the links in the image caption for more background on each item. These images were available on Wikimedia Commons by Geographicus Rare Antique Maps.

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