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November 05, 2007

Two New Burke Exhibits Focus on Plateau Arts and Culture

The Indian Photographs of Lee Moorhouse, 1898-1915 and This Place Called Home / January 26 – June 8, 2008

Seattle — This winter the Burke Museum presents two significant exhibitions on the historical and contemporary Native cultures of the Plateau region of eastern Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. Peoples of the Plateau: The Indian Photographs of Lee Moorhouse, 1898-1915 and This Place Called Home (featuring selections from the Burke’s Plateau arts collection), are the first exhibits to celebrate Eastern Washington Plateau culture at the Burke in over 20 years. Through these exhibits and related programming, local communities will have an opportunity to experience the vibrant heritage and ongoing artistry of the Native cultures from the Columbia Plateau.

As the Washington State Museum, the Burke is responsible for increasing public understanding and appreciation of the diverse cultures that make up Washington State, with a special focus on Native American heritage. "Though not as widely known as Plains arts, Columbia Plateau Native American arts, which include beautiful basketry, beadwork, and clothing, represents a highly significant artistic tradition in the U.S. and Canada and remains vitally important to tribal members," comments Dr. James Nason, Burke Curator Emeritus. “For all these reasons, they merit greater understanding across the Northwest and beyond,” he adds.

The historic photographs on view in Peoples of the Plateau come from the Lee Moorhouse Collection at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma, and were taken between 1898-1915 in several areas around Eastern Washington and Oregon. An amateur photographer and agent of the Umatilla reservation, Moorhouse took over 9,000 pictures in and around Pendleton, Oregon documenting this transitory period of Pacific Northwest culture as it moved from frontier life to the modern era. Using a large camera with dry gelatin plates, Moorhouse produced a dynamic and expansive pictorial record of the area largely attributed to his good relations with the Native peoples of the region.

The Burke’s companion exhibit of Plateau materials from its permanent collection, This Place Called Home, will bring to life with beautiful examples the many types of materials depicted in the photographs, including beadwork, cradle boards, cornhusk bags, baskets, blankets, and more. It will also include video interviews with tribal elders recorded by Burke staff members. Commenting on objects in the exhibit, the elders discuss the photographs and objects that include, in some cases, their own family heirlooms and ancestors.

Guest Curator Miles R. Miller, of the Yakama and Nez Perce tribes, selected the complementary objects from the Burke’s collection in collaboration with Dr. James Nason, in an effort to bring the photographed historic subjects to life through three-dimensional objects. Says Miller, “This exhibition means more to me than we are still here.’ It’s about tradition, it’s about memory and how artists are taught and continue to teach visual expressions of the Columbia Plateau—this place I call home.”

On opening day, Saturday, January 26, the museum will host a panel of artists and cultural specialists from the Plateau region, including Yakama, Colville, Umatilla, and Nez Perce participants. Throughout the run of the two exhibits, individual artists will demonstrate bead working, basket weaving, flute playing, and other traditional Plateau arts live in the galleries.

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