Item Records

This page shows all the information we have about this item. Both the institution that physically holds this item, and RRN members have contributed the knowledge on this page. You’re looking at the item record provided by the holding institution. If you scroll further down the page, you’ll see the information from RRN members, and can share your own knowledge too.

The RRN processes the information it receives from each institution to make it more readable and easier to search. If you’re doing in-depth research on this item, be sure to take a look at the Data Source tab to see the information exactly as it was provided by the institution.

These records are easy to share because each has a unique web address. You can copy and paste the location from your browser’s address bar into an email, word document, or chat message to share this item with others.

  • Data
  • Data Source

This information was automatically generated from data provided by MOA: University of British Columbia. It has been standardized to aid in finding and grouping information within the RRN. Accuracy and meaning should be verified from the Data Source tab.


A long rectangular cedar plank with faded Northwest Coast designs imprinted in the surface of the wood; only small portions of the designs are visible. Several longitudinal splits. Wood in the centre and towards one end is rotted with material missing. Many nail holes. Underside is covered in chisel marks and longitudinal gouges.

History Of Use

The largest paintings created by Northwest Coast artists of the 18th and 19th centuries functioned as house-front and interior screens. Made of wide, hand-split cedar planks, such screens displayed the family crests of their high-ranking owners. The paintings usually depicted animal or spirit beings, and symbolized pivotal events in the lives of the ancestors. Few of these monumental paintings still remained by 1900, as Indigenous families replaced their traditional extended-family houses with Victorian-style, single-family dwellings.


These planks are the oldest existing example of such house-front paintings. They constitute the only evidence of a painted façade that would have measured 5.5 metres (18 feet) high and 15 metres (50 feet) across. The boards were collected in Lax Kw’alaams, a village on the northern coast of British Columbia where, in the mid 1800s, Ts’msyen chiefs from nine tribes built their houses near the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. These planks were likely brought to Lax Kw’alaams from one of the older villages close to the mouth of the Skeena River.

Specific Techniques

Only paints made of hematite (red) and magnetite (black) were used by the artist(s) who created the images on these boards; there are no traces of the trade paints that were adopted as soon as they became available from fur traders. Now, little of the original painted composition remains. However, when a bright light is raked across the boards’ surface, traces of an extraordinary image are suddenly revealed. Components of the composition that were originally painted emerge as slightly raised forms, as though they were carved in low relief – yet they were not carved, but simply protected by the paint from the effects of wind-driven sand and salt. The areas left unpainted, by contrast, were eroded over time. Perhaps because of the painting’s great age, the composition exhibits a character distinct from that of any other large-scale, painted screens of the 19th century still known today.

Item History

With an account, you can ask other users a question about this item. Request an Account

With an account, you can submit information about this item and have it visible to all users and institutions on the RRN. Request an Account

Similar Items