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Wooden bulge bowl carved with formline designs, some elements of which appear upside down. [CAK 17/08/2009]

Display History

Put on permanent display (with 1891.49.96) in 'Rank, Status And Prestige On The Northwest Coast Of America' in 1996, with the following caption: 'Grease Boxes. Haida. Queen Charlotte Islands. The sides of such boxes are made from a single wooden plank bent around three corners, the fourth being made by sewing the two ends together. Both these boxes are incised with an expanding design representing the Beaver, probably the owner's crest. Collected by Rev. Charles Harrison, a missionary at Masset. Purchased from him in 1891.' [JC 5 9 1996]

Longer Description

Wooden bulge bowl carved with formline designs, some elements of which appear upside down. The base is carved from alder wood. The sides are carved from a single piece of red cedar wood which has been kerfed, steamed and bent to form the sides. The corner where the ends of the plank come together is sewn (probably with spruce root), and the base is both sewn with spruce root and pegged to the base. [CAK 17/08/2009]
Large box with intricately carved and incised curvilinear images appearing on all four exterior walls. Some of the designs are filled with cross-hatching. The box is constructed of four walls with curved rims sewn with a fibrous cord to a flat rectangular shaped base. One corner of the box has been stitched together with the fibrous cord; this appears to be a native repair. All four corners and the interior joints have been coated with a greenish sealing agent; this also appears to have been a native repair. [NM 3/96]
Note the stitching is not a repair but rather a means of joining the two ends of the bent plank to form the box. There is no evidence of a greenish sealing agent on the box. Each corner is impregnated with grease residue which has turned the wood a darker brown. [CAK 17/08/2009]

Primary Documentation

Accession book entry (for 1891.49.94 - .107): 'From Rev. Ch. Harrison, 80 Halton Rd, Canonbury Sq. N. Collection of Haida objects collected by him.... - [One of] 14 Carved wooden grease boxes of various sizes. £45. [Purchase price includes 1891.49.1-110]

No additional information on catalogue cards. [JC 4 9 1996]

Written on object: 'Box for grease and berries. Haida. C. Harrison Coll. Purchased 1891.' [NM 3/96]

Related Documents File - The Haida Project Related Documents File contains video of research sessions and interviews with Haida delegates from September 2009 as part of the project ‘Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge'. It also includes post-visit communications that discuss object provenance. For extensive photographic, video, and textual records documenting the Haida research visit as a whole, including but not limited to preparations of objects for handling, travel logistics, British Museum participation, transcribed notes from research sessions and associated public events held at PRM, see the Haida Project Digital Archive, stored with the Accessions Registers. Original hand-written notes taken during research sessions have been accessioned into the Manuscripts collection, in addition to select other materials. [CAK 02/06/2010]

Research Notes

The following information comes from Haida delegates who worked with the museum's collection in September 2009 as part of the project “Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge”:
This vessel was viewed alongside other wood and horn dishes on Wednesday Sept 9, 2009. Delegates clarified that this is not a box because the sides bulge. They referred to it instead as a feast dish or grease dish. Gaahlaay (Lonnie Young) thought that this bowl could contain a small meal for a small family. Kwiaawah Jones identified the base of the dish as red cedar and the sides as alder wood. Alder wood was said to grow quickly, and therefore is not as dense a wood. In comparison, yew wood was said to grow slowly and produce a much denser wood. Christian White and Nika Collison both suggested that the base was sewn to the sides using spruce roots. Kwiaahwah Jones thought the design was rather ambiguous and not specific to either Raven or Eagle lineages. She wondered if there was a Haida word for designs on bowls and boxes that are purely abstract. Nika Collison suspected that this dish would have originally had a finely woven cedar bark cover. She further observed that three of the sides are carved with downward facing designs, and one side has an upward facing design [and see also 1891.49.96, for a comparison]. She recalled seeing a bentwood box at the National Museum of the American Indian where an eagle quill was inserted to repair a broken corner. Christian White characterised the overall shape of this bowl as canoe-shaped. [CAK 13/05/2010]

Item History

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