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April 2004

Campfire Stories with George Catlin
Multimedia site about an American explorer and painter of the early 1800s.
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

This site uses the artwork and writings of artist George Caitlin that are held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum to present multimedia stories about Native American individuals, life ways, and homelands.
Campfire Stories is a well-designed, high tech multimedia site. It requires Flash 6 and QuickTime plugins. Users can adjust the size of the text and transcripts are available for the audio interviews making the content accessible to the hearing impaired.
The various sections of the site can be entered from the main page. Each of the internal pages has a top and bottom navigation menu. The interactive Campfire Stories themselves can be easily navigated in a number of ways. If needed, help is available in the "How this site works" section. A search page is also available for quickly locating specific artworks or text.

Campfire Stories assembles the paintings and historical documents of artist George Caitlin and commentary from contemporary experts so visitors can explore Native American culture of the nineteenth century. "George Catlin," the site's biography explains, "a lawyer turned painter, traveled thousands of miles from 1830 to 1836 following the trail of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Catlin visited 50 tribes living west of the Mississippi River from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, studying their habits, customs, and mode of life and painting their portraits and landscape." The stories cover four broad themes and address the following topics. Ancestral Lands spotlights Native American homelands. Catlin's Quest illustrates George Catlin's life and vision. Chiefs and Leaders describes tribal leadership and historical figures. Western Landscape covers Great Plains ecology and geography. Each story includes multimedia interviews, a gallery of artworks with exhibition labels, a timeline, and maps. Included is a searchable database containing Catlin's writings and hundreds of his artworks. Teachers will find lesson plans for each theme that are aligned to national curriculum standards for grades 6-12. Each of these classroom activities involve students in structured learning experiences and provide enrichment options that can be adapted to the specific needs of teachers and students.


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