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Edward S. Curtis was no weekend shutterbug. He set out in 1895 to make “a photographic history of the North American Indian,” and the quest turned into a 30-year project that produced a 20-volume set of books. Anne Makepeace’s new documentary, Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians, shows that Curtis and his project were controversial: His expensive books (underwritten by J.P. Morgan) were meant for a wealthy white clientele, and the posed images sometimes employed anachronistic clothing and props to depict a way of life that had already vanished. Some Indians thought that the photographer revealed mysteries that should have remained private; others welcomed Curtis, glad that someone was documenting their culture. His photographs may not meet contemporary scholarly standards, but they remain the most extensive visual record of traditional American Indian culture. Coming to Light screens at 7 p.m. at the National Archives Theater, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. (202) 501-5000. (MJ)