The Bill Reid Centre For Northwest Coast Art Studies

Gwayasdums house under construction 1899. Source: SFU.

The Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Art Studies is part of the Department of Archaeology and First Nation Studies at Simon Fraser University, although it is physically located in downtown Vancouver. It  currently shares space with the Bill Reid Gallery on Hornby St., near SFU’s Harbour Centre Campus. They have a website that looks to be growing fast with some good content – and despite the name of the centre, it is not only about Haida Art, or even just about Art:

A major activity of the Centre is to visually document through photographs, drawings and other works, the depth and richness of Northwest Coast Art in the hundreds of communities in which monumental architecture and sculpture were recorded.

I’ll point out a few highlights and make some comments “after the jump”

Grizzly Mother sculpture at Gitanyow. Photography by Wilson Duff, 1950. Source: SFU.

The principal content on the page is a series called “The Virtual Village Project“.  Here, they are building resources documenting a series of villages from First Nations, coast-wide. Currently there looks to be a couple of dozen pages started, some of which are more complete than others.  Note that after you click on a culture area, e.g., Kwakwak’wakw, the links to the specific village are way at the very bottom of an intro page whereas there is an index on the right hand side of the home page.   Once you figure out this navigation quirk, then you may find yourself on a page like the one for Gwayasdums. That page then contains information about the village, and in this case there are two further links at the bottom of the page.  One takes you to a collection of Gwayasdums images in the Centre’s ContentDM collection, one of the best (if plainest) content management systems used by libraries and archives.  (You can see all of it here).  The other link takes you to a more detailed article on Chief Scow’s House.

Not all culture areas have any villages yet, and those that do, usually have one or two only.  But if this project, as a work in progress, is a place where scholarly attention, ethnohistoric resources, and contemporary First Nations voices come together, then it will be a very valuable site indeed.  As it currently stands, I don’t see a lot of First Nations voices made explicit here but it would appear to be early days for the project.  I’d really like to see these “village pages” not be limited to art and sculpture but grow to reflect the full experience of life in those places, and to include a census and genealogy of those for whom it was, or is, home.  Easy for me to say, of course!

A couple of other points:

  • The website says that “The Centre is devoted to the study of First Nations art of the Northwest Coast as the visual embodiment of a broad cultural development since the end of the last Ice Age.” I take this to mean that they will be interested in and devote resources to pre-contact art from the archaeological record.  That would be appropriate, and necessary, and possible, given their relationship to SFU archaeology.   I look forward to it!
  • Two of the more interesting features of the web site you might not find at first glance.  The first of these is a series of videos documenting lectures given by George MacDonald on Northern, Central and Southern Villages of the Haida.  You can see those on the Haida Pages, or, more conveniently perhaps, on Youtube.
  • There is also a narrated video slide show by Barry Herem about the Whale House in Klukwan.
  • Finally, they have a facebook page.  On their website, they direct attention to it like this:  The Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Art Studies is on Facebook. Please join us and participate in discussions about the historic and contemporary material we present. You will be able to post messages to our wall, browse and comment on our photos and watch video presentations of First Nations art and architecture along the Northwest Coast. Most importantly, you will be able to add to our knowledge by participating in conversations about the images in our collection using the discussion board.  Follow us by clicking the Facebook icon above. If you like what you see let everyone know by clicking “Like” when your on our page.I don’t want to read too much into it, but, is this is the most explicit expression of an actual way of bringing other voices to the centre .  Following on from the discussion here the other day, it may be a mixed blessing to rely on facebook as the social media front-end for one’s site.

Anyway, their sister institution, the Bill Reid Gallery, also has some intriguing content but I’ll save that for another day.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing this website evolve and become a major resource for Northwest Coast studies.

Panorama of Gwayasdums Village. Photographed by George Dawson, 1885. Source: SFU.

7 responses to “The Bill Reid Centre For Northwest Coast Art Studies

  1. Bill Reid – I knew him and worked for his studio when I lived in Vancouver in the late 80s.
    To me, he is an example of a cross-racial human being who bridged the gap, and reminded us of something other than settler cultures through his abilities to connect these 2 worlds, both internally and externally. The quality of his legacy is obviously having long ranging effects.


  2. We invite you to visit the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast art in downtown Vancouver. The Gallery showcases the permanent collection of Bill Reid and changing exhibitions of contemporary Northwest Coast Art.

    Hours: Wed-Sun from 11am-5pm.
    Twitter: @billreidgallery


  3. Thats is not a comment, that is an advertisement!


  4. Pingback: Notable Blogs 10/29/10 « Dreaming the World

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