Petroglyph from Lone Creek Cabin, Stl’atl’imx Territory, now in an outdoor courtyard at the Museum of Vancouver. Source: Squamish-Lil'wat Centre.
I’ve posted before on the large petroglyph boulder from the central Fraser River that is being kept in a sub-standard context at the Museum of Vancouver. I found some more pictures of it, from the website of the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre (which is excellent). These additional pictures confirm there is a serious conservation issue at the Museum of Vancouver. I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I am still mad about this situation. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Lower Mainland, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast
Tagged conservation, Cultural Resource Management, Lil'wat, Museum of Vancouver, museums, petroglyphs, rock art, Squamish, Stl’atl’imx, Vancouver Museum
The Sechelt Image. Detail of Screenshot from the Museum of Vancouver. (click for full screen or scroll down)
The Museum of Vancouver has a pretty slick and punchy website from a design point of view, very “Web 2.0” with bright colours and links to twitter and facebook and the like. But in some respects it fails, and fails badly. Consider the image above: the “Sechelt Image”, a stone sculpture and one of the most famous objects in BC Archaeology. A single low-resolution picture is offered, a link to which is not possible, and downloads of which are deliberately made difficult. And in this protective bubble, the object can only be seen as a pale, grainy image, surrounded by the Museum’s loud and crass colour scheme. (Update: see full screenshot below: the Vancouver Museum overlays its neon social web over the Sculpture much like Vancouver itself overlays aboriginal culture).
Fine – I am used to that ridiculous phenomenon wherein Public Institutions think they own the images that they are entrusted with – if the image is allowed to be seen by the descendent communities (and in this case I wonder if it really is) then why can it not be seen in high resolution, free from the magenta borders and the exhortations to tweet!?
But the real problem is that the web designers, with their stupid and un-necessary banner reading “Sechelt Image carved stone figure”, obscure an important area of the sculpture, including the all-important vulva which reveals, as noted by Wilson Duff, that this sculpture is powerfully hermaphroditic. It is not just bad and regressive museology to cover up an important part of an object, but I believe it is deeply disrespectful as well. By obscuring part of the image and by imprisoning it within their branded frame and obfuscating web design, they, the (hopefully) temporary guardians of this powerful piece of art, are visually co-opting it for what amounts to advertising purposes. There is no reason to put your label over top of that which you claim to be displaying for its own sake; no reason other than marketing zeal and lack of control over the web designers.
You might think it was just prurience over the frankly sexual image, but below we see another image from their website with no shocking! vulva! to conceal, which has been similarly branded and bounded by the MoV. Maybe I am just mad at them still because they’re using a petroglyph boulder as a rock garden (note the obscuring “petroglyph” banner) but really: their website is an egregious example of stealth appropriation and blatant disrespect under the disguise of progressive design and social networking. And I’m just a dumb archaeologist: I’d love to see a Visual Anthropologist dissect the public face they are so eager for the world to see, the face they insist must frame every image on their website.
The Skytte stone bowl. Screenshot from the Museum of Vancouver website. Click for full screen.
The Website sends the Message: "This is Not a Place of Honour. There is No Dignity Here."
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast
Tagged hermaphrodites, Museum of Vancouver, museums, sculpture, Sechelt, Vancouver Museum, Visual Anthropology, Wilson Duff
Shoddy conservation of magnificent petroglyph boulder at the Vancouver Museum. Screenshot from VM website.
For some reason mistreatment of rock art just makes me spitting mad. I posted the other day about a magnificent petroglyph boulder that was removed from its home on the central Fraser River near Lillooet in 1926. Bad enough that this work of art was ripped from its setting to be a curio in an urban park. Petroglyphs are not ornaments for your outdoor rock garden any more than they are lifestyle amenities deployed as advertising copy, even if you are a museum.
Now my spies tell me that this petroglyph boulder was moved to the Vancouver Museum in 1992. Pictures of the boulder on the VM website show it to be in absolutely appalling shape. It is covered with moss, the designs are visibly eroded and faint, there are signs of exfoliation, and the large crack seen in 1926 seems to be getting larger. The Vancouver Museum appears to be keeping this treasure in a damp, shady, spot in the outdoors (as they say, it is in a “lower level garden courtyard”) and there is no sign of any attention to basic, fundamental conservation responsibilities. They even have the gall to note in their website description “Today archaeologists are reluctant to reveal the locations of petrogylphs, lest they be disturbed.” Well I am revealing the location of this petroglyph, which is being disturbed by careless curation!
Seriously: this boulder is one of only a few petroglyphs from that part of the province, where pictographs are much more common. It was in pristine condition in 1926. Now it is a moss-ridden crumbling mess. This boulder is a cultural masterpiece. It is a provincial treasure. It is a national treasure. It is of international significance. And yet it is being absolutely neglected by a leading cultural institution. Imagine an Emily Carr painting being treated so poorly. Imagine a Bill Reid sculpture treated so shabbily. It would never happen. Yet this boulder is as important, is MORE important, and is consigned to rot away metres from state of the art curatorial facilities which are being devoted to white leather pant suits (!!). It is astonishing to me that they put this boulder on the web at all, suggesting that they don’t see a problem and are therefore unworthy to be in possession of it. They should make arrangements immediately to have it transferred to a suitable institution or have it returned to its original setting, in what I take to be St’at’imc territory
Vancouver Museum, you have a responsibility of professional stewardship. Are you living up to it?
Note the eroded engravings and extensive moss/algae cover. Source: VM website screenshot.
The boulder in the early 1930s, soon after it was brought to Stanley Park. Note the crispness of the designs and the lack of moss.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Lower Mainland, Northwest Interior
Tagged CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Fraser River, Lillooet, museums, petroglyphs, pictographs, rock art, St'at'imc First Nations, Vancouver Museum
Petroglyph Boulder in Stanley Park. Source: Vancouver Public Library
I was intrigued by this 1930s photo of noted Vancouver photographer Philip Timms perched beside a large petroglyph in Stanley Park, not least because it is obviously not from the coast. The caption indicates as much: “rock was brought to Stanley Park from the Cariboo; at the former totem pole site at Lumberman’s Arch.”
A little digging around suggests this boulder was discovered in 1923 in the Lone Cabin Creek area of the middle Fraser River, just south of the Gang Ranch. It was moved to Stanley Park in 1926. As of 2002 at least, it was still there. If anyone knows for sure where it is, let me know. The complete absence from flickr, for example, suggests to me that the information below sayng it is stashed out of site at the Vancouver Museum may be accurate. This site has a number of undated pictures of it (not the apparent deterioration from the picture above – it probably doesn’t do well in the rain) and some history and interpretation which I can’t vouch for:
It is thought that this boulder may have been a marker of a Salmon site. Another theory has the stone important in puberty rites. This boulder is probably about 500 years old. This petroglyph was carved in the vicinity of Lone Cabin Creek, north of Lillooet, on the Fraser River. It first gained Euro-Canadian attention in 1923 upon its discovery by H.S. Brown a cariboo prospector. He brought its existance to the attention of William Shelly, the Vancouver Parks Board commissioner of the era. Shelly proposed moving the six-ton rock from its location on the Fraser to a new home in Stanley Park. Three years alter, the move commenced. The rock was first loaded onto a raft to be floated to the nearest railway station. This awkward plan failed as the weight of the boulder caused the raft to sink immediately after loading. The next, more successful attempt involved a team of ten horses and a sled. In the dead of winter, the “Shelly Stone” was dragged to the closest rail line. This whole procedure took over a month and cost Shelly two thousand dollars which was a lot of money at the time. The Shelly Stone arrived safely at Stanley Park. It was set in a foundation of concrete as it was felt this would prevent the enormous rock from being carried off or destroyed. The rock remained at Brockton Pt mislabeled as an Indian Pictograph until moved to the Vancouver Museum basement in June of 1992. During the years in Stanley Park, human contact and urban polution have worn on the petroglyph like sandpaper. It is hoped that the protected environment of the museum will guard its images from further deterioration. Since it is not part of the regular museum exhibition, it currently does not cost to view it.
This boulder must be of the highest spiritual and cultural significance — shouldn’t it be moved back to the Cariboo where it belongs?
Posted in Archaeology, history, Lower Mainland, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast
Tagged petroglyphs, Philip Timms, rock art, Stanley Park, Vancouver, Vancouver Museum, vancouver public library, VPL