1861-1912: the America of the pioneers

The exhibition consists of 56 digital reproductions of rare images (some taken by famous photographers like Timothy H. O'Sullivan) miraculously survived the extreme conditions of the western territories of North America. No colonization has entered the collective imagination and has fascinated the generations of the '900s of the whole world like that of the American west, which over time has become a true modern legend. Re-proposing all the iconography that belongs to that era, the exhibition brings the legend back to life by recounting, with the photographs taken then, the epic of the conquest of the "Wild West" as handed down by contemporary society.


In 1848 the borders of the current United States are legally fixed - the territory is bounded in the north by the 49th parallel, in the south by the Rio Grande, in the west by the Pacific Ocean. For a long time Europeans (now known as "the Americans") had begun their expansion to the west with explorations and settlements, but the formalization of the borders produced an impetuous and unstoppable rush to the  West: Mormons, settlers, cattle breeders, adventurers, gold diggers, prostitutes, bandits and sheriffs joined explorers, fur hunters and army soldiers. The rare settlements multiplied, becoming first villages and then cities. A railway, that connected the two coasts of the United States, was built. The "reds", the natives of North America, overwhelmed by the world of cannons and steam engines, tried to resist but were defeated and confined to reserves.


The myth of the frontier - celebrated in many Hollywood films, made up of victims and executioners, violence and heroism, cruelty and hope - was born and developed between the late 1800s and the early 1900s. The exhibition retraces everything through the images of the National Archives of the United States that preserve in a single collection the photographs taken by public officials of the various government departments and those donated to the State by journalists, professional photographers and private citizens.


Curated by:

Alessandro Luigi Perna

A production of:

Eff&Ci - Facciamo Cose (We Do Things)


Pictures of:

N.A.R.A. - National Archives & Records Administration

background photo of the page © Courtesy N.A.R.A. -  National Archives and Records Administration