The American Museum of Natural History recently announced that its Northwest Coast Hall will undergo a huge transformation over the next few years in preparation for the museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020. The hall, which opened in 1899 as AMNH's first hall and cultural gallery, will be conserved, restored and updated with modern representations. The mission is to paint a fuller picture of the culture and heritage of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest that live in Alaska through British Columbia and Washington while ensuring that the artifacts in its possession continue to stay intact for another 100 years.
The museum’s collection of 19th- and early 20th-century Pacific Northwest Coast artifacts contains approximately 9,000 items and the exhibit features 78 amazing totem poles and a 63-foot-long Great Canoe that greets visitors in the hall’s Grand Gallery. Communities from First Nations represented in the hall took part in the exhibit’s creation over 100 years ago with then museum curator and creator of the hall Franz Boas. Now these communities are coming together once again to ensure that their story is an accurate representation of their ancestry and where their cultures stand today.
Representatives from the Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth and Tlingit communities traveled from the Pacific Northwest to New York City to announce the project Monday morning. The American Museum of Natural History has also enlisted the help of architecture firm wHY to update the hall’s infrastructure as well as preserve its historical grandeur.
The project will cost approximately $14.5 million to complete. The museum is also a recipient of $499,525 in federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to aid in the conservation of the painted totem poles that are such a draw in the hall. Museum conservators will begin the careful restoration process on six monumental totem poles over the next 18 months before moving on to more than 1,000 smaller objects such as rattles and ceremonial masks.
To learn more about the museums efforts and the magnificent objects housed in its Northwest Coast Hall, visit amnh.org. Families can also learn about other cultures from around the world with a trip to any of the best children’s museums or exhibits for kids. Don’t forget to jot down when free museum days take place to take advantage of all the cool installations this city has to offer.