Northwest Coast Hall

 

ABOUT THIS HALL

Opened in 1899, the Northwest Coast Hall is the Museum's oldest gallery. Franz Boas, the "father of American anthropology," conceived it as the first museum exhibition to value indigenous cultures on their own terms, not in relation to Western cultures. The cultural items displayed in the hall were acquired by the Museum during the late 1800s and early 1900s from different Northwest Coast communities.

The hall has been modified since its opening, but retains much of its original design.  The culture-names in the alcoves reflect what anthropologists called these communities a century ago, not what the communities call themselves now. On September 25, 2017, the Museum announced a multi-year project to update, restore, and conserve the Northwest Coast Hall.

 

ABOUT THE NORTHWEST COAST

"Northwest Coast" refers to the coast of North America that extends from southern Alaska through Canada to Washington State. With vast cedar and spruce forests and myriad inlets, islands and rivers, this unique region has been home to people for millennia. Some of the Northwest Coast's indigenous cultures—still vibrant today—are highlighted in this hall.

 

NORTHWEST COAST CULTURES REPRESENTED IN THE HALL

Map showing the location of ten Northwest Coast Nations located in Canada and the US.

THE HALL TODAY

For more than a century Museum visitors have sought out this unique hall as a center of learning and a source of wonder. The Museum engages and collaborates with people from the Northwest Coast and all over the world through exhibits like this one, as well as through education, public programs and other projects. 

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On September 25, 2017, the Museum announced a multi-year project to update, restore, and conserve the Northwest Coast Hall. Kaa-xoo-auxch/Garfield George (head of the Raven Beaver House of Angoon/Dei Shu Hit “End of the Trail House,” Tlingit) addresses Northwest Coast Hall press conference attendees with his daughter Violet Murphy-George and Haa’yuups/Ron Hamilton (head of the House of Takiishtakamlthat-h, of the Huupach'esat-h First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth).

© AMNH/M. Shanley


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Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw Educator Kaleb Child (Musgamdzi) shares cultural information with visitors to the hall.

Image credit: AMNH/R. Mickens


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The Museum often repatriates, or returns, specific items in its collection to the culture of origin via prescribed procedures when formal requests are made. These returns are often part of a U.S. law called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Here, Museum staff and people from the Haida Nation sign papers in 2014 for an emotional return of human remains to Haida Gwaii, Canada. Because this group is international, the repatriation was not mandated by any U.S. law, but was purely voluntary on the Museum’s part. 

Image credit: AMNH/C. Chesek


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Heather Powell (Lgeik’i), a Tlingit educator and weaver, visited the Museum’s collections to look at Naaxiin (“Chilkat”) robes—ceremonial blankets woven by Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people for more than 200 years. The designs tell stories, she says. “Our ancestors’ story has been woven into them. The stories are older than us. So they’re a place keeper for that moment in history, and they’re very, very precious.” 

Image credit: AMNH/D. Finnin


 

HALL HISTORY