American Museum of Natural History. Hall of Northwest Coast Indians.

Show/Hide All Variant Names

Exist Dates

1896 - present

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Permanent exhibition. Opened November 30, 1896. Located on Floor 1, Section 1. The Hall of Northwest Coast Indians at the American Museum of Natural History highlights the traditional cultures of Native American and First Nation cultures from present-day Washington State, British Columbia, and Alaska, including the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw), Haida, and Tlingit. Curators included Franz Boas, Pliny Goddard, Stanley A. Freed, and Bella Weitzner. Expeditions that contributed to the hall included the Boas Expedition to the Northwest Territories (1894-1895), the Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902), financed by Museum President Morris K. Jesup, and the Goddard Expedition to British Columbia and Alaska (1922). Expedition members included George Emmons, Livingston Farrand, Pliny Goddard, George Hunt, D.C.F. Newcombe, Harlan I. Smith, John R. Swanton, Will S. Taylor, and James Teit (1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6, 1896, p. 19-20; 6, 1922 p. 10; 6, 1960/61, p. 25; 1, 1911, p. 23; 7).

When the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians first opened, it temporarily housed ethnological collections from Melanesia and northern Mexico before they were transferred to a new wing (6, 1896, p. 19-20). The Eskimo collections were exhibited at the back of the hall before being moved to a corridor between the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians and the Lecture Hall in 1916 (6, 1916, p. 87).

Cultures represented in the hall include Haida, Tlingit, Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw), Tsimshian (Tsimshianic), Bella Coola (Nuxalk), Coast Salish, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth), Shuswap, and Thompson (Nlaka'pamux). Artifacts include basketry, ceremonial objects, masks, textiles, tools, fishing gear, musical instruments, and woodcarving (9, 1931, p. 34; 10, 1967). The hall, with mural paintings by Will S. Taylor, features large totem poles, house posts, grave monuments (6, 1909, p. 39; 9, 1935, p. 37) and miniature models, such as the model of a Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) village on Vancouver Island (9, 1928, p. 18; 6, 1911, p. 23).

The iconic Great Canoe, in the Grand Gallery as of 2017, was first exhibited in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians. Mannequins representing Chilkat Indians were installed in approximately 1910 (2; 9, 1911, p. 16-18), with work contributed by artist Albert Operti (6, 1912, p. 71). The Canoe was transferred from the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians to the Grand Gallery in 1960 (6, 1960/61, p. 25), where it still remains, suspended from the ceiling as of 2017.

As of 2017, the hall features a Digital Totem, an interactive installation that is part of a pilot project to bring contemporary Northwest Coast voices and new interpretation into the hall. The installation has a touch-screen portal to the peoples, places, and sounds of the Pacific Northwest. Museum visitors are introduced to indigenous Northwest Coast peoples through photos and interviews, examine objects from the Museum’s collection via 360-degree rotations, listen to local languages, and create their own Northwest Coast soundscapes using recordings of natural features, animals, and local instruments. To create the Digital Totem, the Museum worked closely with Northwest Coast peoples and interviewed members of Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw, Haida, Nuu-chah-nulth, Musqueam, Gitxsan, Tlingit, and Tsimshian communities (8).

Although the hall has been renovated several times, the suggestion of a "damp forest-seashore environment" and its presentation has been retained throughout the hall's history (PG 1967), which is perhaps why the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians is credited with being the Museum's oldest hall although other halls, such as the Hall of Primates, have roots tracing further back (AR 1964-1965 p. 4). Many of the early elements in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, such as the murals by Will Taylor and the tiled floor in the alcoves remain in the hall as of 2017 (2; 11).

Sources

    (1) American Museum of Natural History, "Hall of Northwest Coast Indians," accessed May 5, 2017, http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/human-origins-and-cultural-halls/hall-of-northwest-coast-indians.
    (2) American Museum of Natural History Research Library Digital Special Collections, accessed May 5, 2017, http://images.library.amnh.org/digital
    (3) American Museum of Natural History Research Library. Boas Expedition to the Northwest Territories (1894-1895), accessed May 5, 2017, http://data.library.amnh.org:8082/orbeon/xeac/id/amnhc_2000023
    (4) American Museum of Natural History Research Library. Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902), accessed May 5, 2017, http://data.library.amnh.org:8082/orbeon/xeac/id/amnhc_2000038
    (5) American Museum of Natural History Research Library. Goddard Expedition to British Columbia and Alaska (1922), accessed May 5, 2017, http://data.library.amnh.org:8082/orbeon/xeac/id/amnhc_2000728
    (6) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1896-1964/65.
    (7) American Museum of Natural History Research Library. "Jesup North Pacific Expedition, accessed May 5, 2017, http://library.amnh.org/finding_aids_Jesup/.
    (8) American Museum of Natural History, "Digital Totem," accessed May 5, 2017, http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/human-origins-and-cultural-halls/hall-of-northwest-coast-indians/digital-totem
    (9) American Museum of Natural History. General Guide to the Exhibition Halls of the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1904-1931.
    (10) American Museum of Natural History. The American Museum of Natural History: A Pictorial Guide. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1967.
    (11) Hall of Northwest Coast Indians. American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY. May 5, 2017.
    (12) American Museum of Natural History. Official Guide: Images from around the American Museum of Natural History New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1993.
    Information for the hall appears in the following Museum publications:
    American Museum of Natural History Annual Reports for years 1895 (page 17-18); 1896 (page 19-20); 1898 (page 16-17); 1900 (page 18); 1904 (page 20); 1908 (page 36); 1909 (page 38); 1910 (page 48+); 1911 (page 22, 23, 60); 1912 (page 66, 71); 1913 (page 28); 1914 (page 31, 74); 1915 (page 28, 81); 1916 (page 86, 87); 1917 (page 46, 91); 1918 (page 43, 87); 1920 (page 26, 103); 1921 (page 104); 1922 (page 10, 101); 1923 (page 127); 1924 (page 110); 1926 (page 34, 84); 1927 (page 142); 1930 (page 38); 1937 (page 50, 70); 1956 (page 15); 1959 (page 4); 1960 (page 25, 68); 1961 (page 54); 1963 (page 71); 1964 (page 75); 1984 (page 59); 1989 (page 63); 2009 (page 29); 2010 (page 50)
    American Museum of Natural History General Guides for years 1904 (Table of Contents, page 40); 1911 (page 13, 15, 16); 1913 (page 20); 1914 (Table of Contents, page 21); 1916 (page 23); 1918 (page 13); 1919 (page 13); 1920 (page 13); 1921 (page 13); 1922 (page 13); 1923 (page 13); 1927 (page 5, 37); 1928 (page 18); 1929 (page 18); 1930 (page 18); 1931 (page 34); 1932 (page 34); 1933 (page 36); 1934 (page 37); 1935 (page 37); 1936 (page 37); 1939 (page 16, 131); 1943 (page 16, 138); 1945 (page 16, 138); 1947 (page 16, 138); 1949 (page 16, 138); 1953 (Floor plans, page 172); 1956 (page 178); 1958 (page 180); 1962 (page 12, 42); 1964 (page 12, 17, 42)
    American Museum of Natural History: Pictorial Guide, 1967
    American Museum of Natural History: An Introduction (page 7, 8), 1972
    American Museum of Natural History Official Guides for years 1984 (page 41); 1993 (page 35); 1993 (page 50); 2001 (Table of Contents, page 30 60)

Terms

place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Floor 1, Section 1. Additional location information: North Wing, Section 108 indicated for 1904; South Central Wing and Hall number 1-F is indicated in publications for the 1930s.

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

Boas Expedition to Northwest Territories
Expedition collected material for hall (3).
Boas, Franz 1858-1942
Led expeditions which collected material for hall (3, 4).
Emmons, George Thornton
Member of Jesup North Pacific Expedition (6, 1911, p. 23) and Goddard Expedtion (6, 1922, p. 10), which collected material for the hall.
Eskimo Hall
The Eskimo hall was once a part of the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians (9, 1904, p. 50).
Farrand, Livingston 1867-1939
Member of Jesup North Pacific Expedition, which collected material for the hall (4).
Freed, Stanley A
Curator for hall (6, 1960/61, p. 25).
Goddard Expedition to British Columbia and Alaska
Expedition collected material for hall (6, 1922, p. 10).
Goddard, Pliny Earle 1869-1928
Led Goddard Expedition to British Columbia and Alaska, which collected totem poles for the hall (6, 1922, p. 10).
Hunt, George
Member of Jesup North Pacific Expedition, which collected material for the hall (4).
Hunt, Richard, 1951-External link
Artist, totem pole (1992) (12, 1993, p. 35).
Jesup North Pacific Expedition
Expedition collected material for hall (4).
Jesup, Morris K. (Morris Ketchum) 1830-1908
Funded Jesup North Pacific Expedition (4).
Mayer, Caspar 1871-1931
"A number of admirable full-length figures and busts, prepared by Mr. Caspar Mayer" (6, 1896, p. 19-20).
Newcombe, D.C.F.
Member of Goddard Expedition to British Columbia and Alaska, which collected totem poles for the hall (6, 1922, p. 10).
Operti, Albert 1852-1927
Artist, canoe figure (6, 1912, p. 71).
Smith, Harlan Ingersoll 1872-1940
Member of Jesup North Pacific Expedition, which collected material for the hall (4).
Taylor, William S. 1882-1968
Artist, mural paintings in hall (6, 1909, p. 3).
The First Europeans: Treasures from the Hills of Atapuerca (Exhibition)
associated dates: 2003 January 11-2003 April 13
We've Been Here A Hundred Years (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1977 December 22-1978 January 31
Weitzner, Bella
Curator for hall (6, 1960/61 p. 25).

Related Resources

subjectOf
Historic Halls of the American Museum of Natural History
Curated digital images of permanent halls in the American Museum of Natural History Library, Digital Special Collections.

Written by: Clare O'Dowd
Last modified: 2019 February 13


Export

Content negotiation supports the following types: text/html, application/xml, application/tei+xml, application/vnd.google-earth.kml+xml, application/rdf+xml, application/json, text/turtle

Return to top

amnhc_4000042http://data.library.amnh.org/archives-authorities/org:Organizationosm