Reconnecting through missing chest panel

October 8, 2015
Robin K. Wright
Noted 19th century Haida carver Charles Edenshaw with the chest.

Noted 19th century Haida carver Charles Edenshaw with the chest. 
Photo: Canadian Museum of History, ca. 1890, 88926

The chest in this famous photograph of Haida artist Charles Edenshaw was exhibited at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909. After the fair, the chest was dismantled, and the lid, its two sides, and back went to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, while the bear figure on the lid came to the Burke Museum. However, the chest’s front panel went missing, and hasn’t been found to this day.

In 2012, Christian White, Charles Edenshaw’s great-great-grandson, received a grant from the Burke’s Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art. During his visit, White was inspired to recreate the missing chest panel. 

“It’s a very powerful feeling for me to be able to see these pieces, to be able to hold them. As I was carving this chest front I felt like I was reconnecting with my ancestor. I was thinking about the different steps that he had gone through to make this. It was like I had to re-invent that myself.” 

Christian White

Christian White, Charles Edenshaw’s great-great-grandson, displays the chest panel he was inspired to create.

Christian White, Charles Edenshaw’s great-great-grandson, displays the chest panel he was inspired to make. Argillite Chest Panel, 2013. Burke Museum #2014-15/1.
Photo: Burke Museum

Thanks to several generous donors, it is now a part of the Burke Museum’s collection and was displayed in the Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired exhibit celebrating the Bill Holm Center’s 10th anniversary and contemporary Northwest Native art.  

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