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Emry and Anna Kopta collection, 1912-1998


Overview of the Collection

Creator: Kopta, Emry, 1884-1953 Kopta, Anna (née Phelps), 1882-1986
Title: Emry and Anna Kopta collection,
Inclusive Dates: 1912-1998
Quantity: 8.25 cm textual material, 1801 photographic images (1823 prints, 206 glass plate negatives, 1143 nitrate negatives, 30 safety negatives), 2 audio cassettes
Identification: MS-240
Repository: Museum of Northern Arizona
3101 N. Fort Valley Rd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
928-774-5211 ext. 256 or 269

Biographical Note

Emry Kopta (May 22, 1884 - May 20, 1953) was born in Austria to Vaclav and Flora Kopta. Vaclav was a distinguished concert violinist and music teacher in Czechoslovakia and the U.S.; during a tour with the New York and Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestras he met Flora Wilson, who was from a Philadelphia aristocratic family. Emry had also studied violin, but gave up when his father informed him that he'd never be a concert caliber violinist - he was nine years old.

Kopta's family moved to San Francisco when he was 16, and his father acquired a ranch in Sacramento. During a ranch accident, Emry's knee was crushed under the wheels of an overturning carriage, leading to a permanent limp, and Kopta's search for a job that would allow him to sit - he fell in love with sculpting. In 1904 he enrolled in the Mark Hopkins School of Art in San Francisco, and in 1906 he moved to France to study sculpting at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1911 he completed his studies and moved back to Los Angeles, where he met Lon Megargee, a young artist from Arizona who later became a prominent Southwestern painter.

In 1912 Kopta and Megargee were invited to be guests of John “Don” Lorenzo Hubbell at his trading post on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. They were joined by William R. Leigh, another artist, and the three went out together to the Hopi village of Polacca to learn more about the American Indian and see the colorful Hopi ceremonies. It was in Polacca that Kopta met Tom Pavatea, a full-blooded Hopi and owner of the small trading post there. Pavatea would play an important role in Kopta's life.

Kopta fell in love with the Hopi people during this visit, and determined to continue his work among them. He soon closed out his affairs in Los Angeles and moved to Polacca. Tom Pavatea rented a bedroom and a studio space to him, and provided introductions to other members of the community. Kopta made many close relationships in the Hopi community, and was eventually adopted as a son by the Pavatea family. During his life on the reservation he would take many photographs - of daily life, some ceremonies, and of particular individuals as studies for his sculptures.

Anna Kopta (née Phelps, November 8, 1882 - April 22, 1986) was born and raised in Ohio. In 1902 she visited relatives at Fort Sill Military Reservation in Oklahoma, where a number of Apaches from Arizona were confined (including Geronimo, whom Anna met). It was at this time that Anna decided on a career of teaching at Indian schools. In 1906 she moved to Arizona and began teaching at the Phoenix Indian School.

In 1922, Emry Kopta was commissioned to design a memorial at the Phoenix Indian School for soldiers killed in World War I. While there, he and Anna met, and they were married in 1923 in Flagstaff. They continued to live on the reservation until 1925, when Emry and Anna moved to Phoenix, where they built a house and studio with a large garden, vineyard, and orchard. They continued to visit their friends at the Hopi reservation regularly, and members from the reservation would often come to Phoenix to visit them.

In 1928, Emry was commissioned to design a decorative block for use in the Arizona Biltmore Hotel by Albert Chase McArthur, chief architect and student of Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1933, Emry was commissioned to design a fountain for the Arizona State Teachers College, now Arizona State University at Tempe. The original fountain design included a bronze statue of a Hopi flute player atop a pedestal featuring Hopi Kachina designs. However, before the statue could be cast the College Board informed Kopta that the fountain would no longer include it - possibly due to lack of funds. The pedestal itself became the fountain as it is today; the model of the flute player statue was later donated to the ASU museum by Anna Kopta in 1970.

Emry Kopta died May 20, 1953 in Phoenix, Arizona at age 68. Anna continued to teach at Indian Schools in Phoenix, Gila Crossing, and Zuni (in New Mexico), and authored several articles on her experiences and friendships among American Indians. She was instrumental in having the Hubbell Trading Post declared a National Historic Site, was chosen Phoenix Woman of the Year in 1968, and Sun City Woman of the Year in 1973. In 1981 she gave a tape recorded interview with Ned Danson. Anna Kopta died April 22, 1986 in Phoenix Arizona at age 103.

Scope and Content

Collection consists of materials relating to Emry and Anna Kopta’s personal and professional life. Textual material includes articles and clippings, Anna Kopta’s scrapbook, personal gifts received, Anna Kopta’s teaching materials from Zuni Day School, student workbooks from Zuni Day School, personal correspondence, and a handwritten transcription of Anna Kopta’s interview with Ned Danson. Photographic materials feature scenes of Emry and Anna Kopta’s daily life, Emry Kopta’s sculpture, and images of Navajo and Hopi life and ceremonies.


Collection is arranged in the following series:
Series 1: Biographical Material
Series 2: Emry Kopta Photographs
Series 3: Anna Kopta
There is no apparent order to the photographs in this collection. Photographs appear to be numbered based on order in which they were received.


Conditions Governing Access

This collection contains culturally sensitive images; these are identified at the item level throughout the photograph files. Advance permission is required to view restricted materials. Please contact the MNA Archivist for more information and to obtain permission for viewing these materials.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished and published manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Related Material

Additional glass plates by Kopta are housed in the archives of the Heard Museum, collection RC 26.

Additional photographs are located in the archives of the Heard Museum, collections RC 2 and RC 18.

Other photographs and negatives are housed in the archives of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.

Controlled Access Terms

Personal Name(s)
Dockstader, Frederick J.
Heye, George G. (George Gustav), 1874-1957
Hough, Walter, 1859-1935
Hubbell, John Lorenzo
Kopta, Anna (née Phelps), 1882-1986
Kopta, Emry, 1884-1953
McArthur, Albert Chase
Nampeyo, approximately 1856-1942

Corporate Name(s)
Arizona State Teachers College
Arizona State University
Heard Museum
Museum of New Mexico
Museum of Northern Arizona
Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation
National Museum of the American Indian (U.S.)
Navajo Nation, Arizona, New Mexico & Utah
Phoenix Indian School
Zuni Day School (Zuni, N.M.)

Geographic Name(s)
Agathla Peak (Ariz.)
Canyon de Chelly National Monument (Ariz.)
First Mesa (Ariz. : Mesa)
Fort Sill (Okla.)
Grand Canyon (Ariz.)
Hopi Indian Reservation (Ariz.)
Hotevilla (Ariz.)
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (Ganado, Ariz.)
Kayenta (Ariz.)
Mission San Xavier del Bac (Tucson, Ariz.)
Monument Valley (Ariz. and Utah)
Navajo National Monument (Ariz.)
Oraibi (Ariz.)
Red Lake (Ariz.)
Red Lake (Ariz.)
Second Mesa (Ariz. : Mesa)
Shungopavi (Ariz.)
Tuba City (Ariz.)

Arizona Biltmore
Black-and-white photography
Bronze sculpture
Buffalo dance
Butterfly dance
Devil dance
Figure sculpture
Hopi Indians
Hopi Indians -- Dwellings -- Arizona -- Oraibi
Hopi Indians -- Religion
Hopi Indians -- Rites and ceremonies
Hopi Indians -- Social life and customs
Hopi Indians -- Women
Hopi Tribe of Arizona
Hopi architecture
Hopi art
Hopi artists
Hopi baskets
Hopi children
Hopi cooking
Hopi dance
Hopi dolls
Hopi mythology
Hopi pottery
Hopi women
Hopi women potters
Hopi youth
Images, Photographic
Models (Clay, plaster, etc.)
Navajo Indian Reservation
Navajo Indians
Navajo Indians -- Dwellings
Navajo Indians -- Education
Navajo Indians -- Religion
Navajo Indians -- Rites and ceremonies
Navajo Indians -- Social life and customs
Navajo architecture
Navajo art
Navajo children
Navajo cooking
Navajo dance
Navajo girls
Navajo pottery
Navajo women
Photography of sculpture
Plaster sculpture
Portrait photography
Portrait sculpture
Terra-cotta figurines
Terra-cotta sculpture
Tewa Indians
Tewa dance
Trading posts
Trading posts -- Arizona

Administrative Information

Custodial History

Following the death of Emry Kopta, the photographs in this collection were in the possession of Anna Kopta until their donation to the Museum of Northern Arizona in 1976.

Preferred Citation

Emry and Anna Kopta collection, MS-240 [Box Number]. Museum of Northern Arizona. Flagstaff, Arizona.

Acquisition Information

All materials were donated to the MNA archives by Anna Kopta in 1976 (Accession #MS-240).

Processing Information

Processed in November of 2010.

Other Finding Aid

Detailed inventories of photographs are available upon request.


Photographs taken by Emry Kopta have appeared in:

Bol, Marsha. 1998. North, South, East, West: American Indians and the natural world. Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Breunig, Robert G., and Michael Lomatuway'ma. Hopi: scenes of everyday life. In Plateau, vol. 55, no. 1. 1983.
El Palacio, Vol 5-8: Journal of the Museum of New Mexico, The School of American Research, the Archaeological Society of New Mexico, and the Sante Fe Society of the Archaeological Institute. July 1, 1918.
The Emry and Anna Kopta Foundation. 1982. Emry Kopta: the Sculptor -- the Man. Taos, New Mexico: Columbine Printing Co.
Hurst, Tricia. 1982. Emry Kopta (1884-1953) - Each Respected the Other. In Southwest Art, vol.11, no.11. 1982.
Johnson, Tim. 1998. Spirit capture: photographs from the National Museum of the American Indian. Smithsonian Institution Press in association with the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.
Koyiyumptewa, Stewart B., Carolyn O'Bagy Davis, Hopi Cultural Preservation Office. 2009. The Hopi People (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing.
Kramer, Barbara. 1996. Nampeyo and her pottery. University of New Mexico Press.
O’Kane, Walter Collins. Emry Kopta – Sculptor of Indians. In Arizona Highways, vol. 33, no. 8. 1957.
O’Kane, Walter Collins. The Story of a Fountain. In Arizona Highways, vol. 33, no. 8. 1957.

Container List

Series 1: Biographical Material 1914-1998 2 cm textual material
Series consists of photographs related to Emry Kopta’s personal and professional life. Personal photographs include images of Emry and Anna Kopta, their friends, and their activities. The majority of the photographs represent the Kopta’s time among the Hopi and Navajo people of Arizona, showing scenes of daily life, buildings, and some ceremonies. People of note include Coyawyema of the Snake Clan, the potter Nampeyo, and the archaeologist Walter Hough. Photographs from Emry Kopta’s professional work include studies for his sculptures, photographs of finished pieces, the fountain now at the Arizona Teacher’s School, and the Arizona Biltmore. Several photographs correspond to items in the Museums’ Fine Arts Collection. Some prints have annotations written by Kopta or others.
11 Kopta Family Biographical Information, 1914-1998
12 Emry Kopta: The Sculptor – The Man, 1982
13 Anna Kopta Scrapbook, undated
14 Gifts Received, 1917-1921
Series 2: Emry Kopta Photographs circa 1912-1950s 1801 photographic images (1823 prints, 206 glass plate negatives, 1143 nitrate negatives, 30 safety negatives)
Series consists of materials related to Emry Kopta and his family. This includes newspaper clippings, magazine articles, pamphlets, Anna Kopta’s scrapbook (containing clippings and photographs related to their lives), and other materials received as gifts related to Emry Kopta’s personal and professional life.
There is no apparent order to the collection; photographs appear to have been numbered based on order in which they were received. Some photographs and negatives have numbers which appear to correspond to lists made by Emry Kopta. Other numbers and lists post-date Kopta’s death and were made by an unknown individual. A 1995 note in the inventory file notes that several loose prints were located at that time and appended to the existing inventory, beginning with MS 240-2-1360. These photographs were grouped by subject.
All nitrate negatives are stored in the nitrate freezer
2-4 and GP-A 81-87 Photographs, 1912-1950s
Series 3: Anna Kopta 1931-1981 6.25 cm textual material, 2 audio cassettes
Series consists of materials related to Emry Kopta and his family. This includes newspaper clippings, magazine articles, pamphlets, Anna Kopta’s scrapbook (containing clippings and photographs related to their lives), and other materials received as gifts related to Emry Kopta’s personal and professional life.
15 Anna Kopta Teaching Materials, 1931-1932
16-7 Zuni Day School Student Workbooks, 1931-1932
18 Anna Kopta Personal Correspondence, 1972-1976
19 Anna Kopta Interview Tapes, 1981
110 Anna Kopta Interview Transcript, 1981