Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Website Search Box

Department of Anthropology

Wrensted Book Cover

portrait of Joanna Cohan Scherer

JOANNA COHAN SCHEREREmeritus Anthropologist

  • Phone: 202-633-1962
  • E-mail:

  • Mailing Address:
    Department of Anthropology
    National Museum of Natural History
    Smithsonian Institution
    P.O. Box 37012
    NHB 85, MRC 100
    Washington, D.C. 20013-7012

Selected Professional activities:

Illustrations Researcher (1970-2006) for the Handbook of North American Indians (1978-2008).  Board of Directors of the Society for Visual Anthropology, a unit of the American Anthropological Association, Past-President, Historian, Committee for Collier Award for Excellence in Still Photography and Committee for Lifetime Achievement Award.

Research interests:

North American Indian ethnology - fieldwork in southeastern Idaho, Visual anthropology, History of anthropology

Selected Publications


2013 Life among the Indians: First Fieldwork among the Sioux and Omahas by Alice C. Fletcher, Ed. and with an Introduction by Scherer and Raymond J. DeMallie.  University of Nebraska Press.            

2006 A Danish Photographer of Idaho Indians:  Benedicte Wrensted.University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 

1993 Special double issue of Rendezvous: Idaho State
University Journal of Arts and Letters 28(1-2): Benedicte Wrensted: An Idaho Photographer in Focus (Joanna C. Scherer, ed.). Also published as a separate book by the Idaho State University Press.

1990 Special double issue of Visual Anthropology 3(2-3): Picturing Cultures: Historical Photographs in Anthropological Inquiry. (Joanna C. Scherer, ed.)

World Wide Web

2016 W.H. Boorne's Photos of the Medicine Lodge Ceremony: The Construction of an Icon. American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University, Bloomington web site:

2012 A Preponderance of Evidence: The 1852 Omaha Indian Delegation Daguerreotypes Recovered.  American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University, Bloomington web site:

2003 Red Cloud's Manikin and His Uncle's Shirt: Historical Representation in the Museum as seen through photo analysis.

1997 Benedicte Wrensted: An Idaho Photographer in Focus.


2014 Artifact Identification using Historical Photographs: The Case of Red Cloud's Manikin.  Visual Anthropology 27(3):217-247.

2012 The Society for Visual Anthropology's Visual Research Conference: The First Twenty-Four Years (1985-2008).  Visual Anthropology Review, vol. 28(2):83-119.

2009 Historical Photographs of North American Indians: Primary Documents BUT View with Care.  In Viewpoints: Visual Anthropologists at Work, pp. 80-95. Eds. by Mary Strong and Laena Wilder, University of Texas Press.

2005 “Red Cloud's Manikin and His Uncle's Shirt: Historical Representation in the Museum as seen through Photo Analysis.” In The People of the Buffalo, vol. 2, The Plains Indians of North America. Essays in honor of John C. Ewers.  eds.  Colin Taylor and Hugh Dempsey, Tatanka Press, Wyk auf Foehr, Germany.

1992 “The Photographic Document: Photographs as Primary Data in Anthropological Inquiry,” pp. 32-41 in Anthropology and Photography. Elizabeth Edwards, ed.  New Haven: Yale University. In 1994 this book won a Kraszna-Krausz Book Award for photography.

1988 “The Public Faces of Sarah Winnemucca,” Cultural Anthropology Journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, vol. 3(2):178-204.

1975 “You Can't Believe Your Eyes:  Inaccuracies in Photographs of North American Indians,” Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication, vol. 2(2):67-79. Reprinted in Exposure: The Journal of the Society for Photographic Education, Chicago, vol. 16(4), 1979. Reprinted in Working Papers on Photography, Science Museum of Victoria, Australia, 1980.


A Danish Photographer of Idaho Indians: Benedicte Wrensted was awarded:
2006 Idaho Book of the Year by the Idaho Library Association
2008 Secretary's Research Prize, Smithsonian Institution
2008 Collier Prize for Still Photography Research, Society for Visual Anthropology

2005 Science Achievement Award for Handbook of North American Indians,  Southeast volume 14, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

1981 Award for 4-Star, newsletter of Smithsonian Institution's Women's Council, Founding Editor

[ TOP ]