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May 30, 2006

Burke Museum Receives NEH Grant for New Haida Traveling Exhibit

Seattle—The Burke Museum recently received a grant for $39,999 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to begin planning a traveling exhibit, “Skidegate Haida House and (Totem) Pole Models for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893.”

Robin K. Wright, curator of Native American art at the Burke Museum, is heading the collaboration of the Burke Museum with the Haida people of Skidegate, B.C., the Haida Gwaii Museum at Qay’llnagaay, and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Together they will create a traveling exhibit that will first locate and reassemble the historically significant model village of 29 house models and 43 totem pole models that were created by Haida artists for the World’s Columbian Exposition (WCE) in Chicago in 1893. To date, 15 of the 29 houses have been located. Fourteen are missing and the Burke is actively seeking the public’s help to locate them. See photographs of the missing house models at: http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/bhc/projects_skidegate.html.

The exhibit is expected to travel to several venues in 2010-11.At the beginning of its tour, this body of artwork that has been separated from the residents of Skidgate for over 100 years will go home and be exhibited at the new Qay’llnagaay Heritage Centre. It will then come to the Burke, and may end at the Field Museum in Chicago, with other potential venue stops along the way. The Burke is currently seeking additional funding to support the travel of this exhibit.

The exhibit will include the model carvings as well as historical and contemporary photographs of Skidegate, B.C. With the grant support, the exhibit team will begin to design the exhibit and assemble historical photos, oral histories, historical documents to help present the fascinating stories of the model houses and poles, their role in the WCE, the full sized Haida houses that they represent, and the Haida artists who lived in and made them. A book, a Web site, and public programs at each venue along the tour will help to build public appreciation for the elaborate Haida art and the enduring cultural power of totem poles.

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