ROCHESTER, NY, April 29, 2021 – The Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) Museum has recently been gifted a rare daguerreotype picturing Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker (later Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker Mt. Pleasant) standing in full regalia c. 1849. This historically significant new addition to the collection was gifted to the RMSC by the late John R. and Eileen K. Riedman.
Born into the influential Parker family at the Tonawanda Seneca community, Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker (Seneca Nation, Wolf Clan) learned to read and write in English, a rare accomplishment for a Native American woman at a time when many white settlers were illiterate. This achievement enabled her to effectively manage the family’s affairs, act as a translator for the Tonawanda Chiefs, and collaborate with anthropologists– including Lewis Henry Morgan, a founder of American anthropology– to document and preserve Haudenosaunee cultural traditions. Her role in diplomacy later matured alongside her Tuscarora husband, Chief John Mt. Pleasant.
This hand-painted daguerreotype of Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker is a very rare photographic image of a Seneca woman from the mid-1800s. It is one of only two known photographic portraits of Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker taken during the first half of her life, and one of four known images of her in existence. The image is such an important primary source that it has been reproduced several times over the last 170 years.
By donating this daguerreotype to the RMSC, the Riedmans ensure the long-term preservation of this object as part of the Museum’s collections. Additionally, this donation will increase public access to the object and help visitors and researchers learn more about Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker as an influential historical figure.
“My parents were very pleased to purchase this important image a number of years ago. They recognized its importance and wanted to ensure that it would be cared for and appreciated for many years to come. My siblings and I are pleased to entrust this rare artifact to the Rochester Museum & Science Center where we know it will be used, as our parents would have wanted, in conjunction with numerous exhibitions and displayed for museum visitors to appreciate for decades to come,” said Susan Holliday, Mr. & Mrs. Riedman’s daughter.
As part of this gift, the Riedman family provided funds that enabled RMSC collections staff to have the hand-colored daguerreotype conserved and digitized. The Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker daguerreotype is currently on display within the Museum’s featured exhibit, The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World. After The Changemakers exhibit closes in May 2021, the daguerreotype will be featured in one of the Museum’s permanent exhibitions.
“We are proud to be stewards of this rare historic photo of Caroline Parker and recognize its importance and the public trust in which we hold our collections at the RMSC,” said Elizabeth Pietrzykowski, Assistant Director of Collections and Registrar at the RMSC.