Canadian history, at a price
An Alberta museum bids to bring back 'fantastic' native artifacts from Scotland
CALGARY -- Susan Berry gushes as she describes the moccasins, the beaded knife sheaths, the rifle case, the beaded sheepskin dress and the man's hide shirt, also adorned with beadwork.
The curator of ethnology at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton says it's rare to see native artifacts from Western Canada that date back to the 1850s. It's even more unlikely to see such a large collection of "spectacular" and "fantastic" objects preserved in a pristine fashion, she adds.
And now, the museum finds itself in an unfamiliar position: scrambling to come up with the more than $1-million it will take to acquire the items, long housed in a Scottish castle, which are today on the auction block in New York. Staff at the museum were relieved to receive word on Friday that the federal Department of Canadian Heritage had pledged $600,000 ...
But the sale is also coming under fire from the Minneapolis, Minn.-based American Indian Movement, which for years has likened Sotheby's sale of native artifacts to Nazi theft of property from Jewish families during the Holocaust.
Vernon Bellecourt, director of the group's council on foreign affairs, said explorers like [James] Carnegie took advantage of native peoples left destitute by governments and settlers and who would trade anything for pennies and food.
"What we're dealing with here are predators, parasites -- all culture vultures," Bellecourt says, "Private collectors and museums, universities and colleges throughout the world should start returning these articles to the specific tribes from which they were stolen. We hope this will become a watershed to do that." [read more of the article]
UPDATE, 9 May 2006:
Alberta Museum lands bulk of rare aboriginal collection (Paula Simons for Edmonton Journal via Canada.com)
Photograph by : Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun
EDMONTON -- The Royal Alberta Museum has acquired two-thirds of a native artifact collection from a 19th-century aristocrat who travelled throughout what is now Western Canada.
Susan Berry, the museum's curator of ethnology, said staff learned just two weeks ago that Sotheby's in New York was about to auction the ninth Earl of Southesk's collection. Since then, they've been working flat out trying to raise the funds.
Ottawa anted up $600,000 and Alberta added $500,000. By the time bidding ended on Monday, the Alberta museum purchased 29 out of 39 lots on auction ... [rest of article]
Sotheby's press release (go to page 5)
Native Americans on warpath over Earl's art treasures (The Scotsman)