“This was the world of great flux into which museum collectors ventured in order to ‘salvage’ the apparently vanishing traces of pre-contact aboriginal life.”

The late nineteenth century was a period of rapid colonization and dramatic change for the Indigenous peoples of North America’s Northwest Coast. Objects of Exchange approaches the material culture of the period as visual evidence of shifting intercultural relations. Drawing on the remarkable collection of the American Museum of Natural History—from decorated clothing to containers, ceremonial regalia to trade goods—this exhibit reveals the artistic traces of dynamic Indigenous activity whereby objects were altered, repurposed, and adapted to meet the challenges of the time. Rather than treating the period as a climax of “traditional” art and culture, the exhibit suggests we view its objects as witnesses to the dawn of an Indigenous modernity.

The following sections of this website present an archive of the exhibition as it was installed. The links below feature all of the exhibition’s introductory texts and graphics, the complete set of loan items with their short interpretive labels, a selection of installation views, and a list of accompanying public programs. Longer and more detailed interpretive texts on each object are available in the exhibition catalogue.

Exhibition Texts and Map

Object Gallery

New Research

Interviews with First Nation Artists

Interactive Tag Cloud

Throughout the gallery, a selection of 15 conceptual themes were “tagged” on the objects’ descriptive labels. On a touch screen, visitors could click on either an object’s icon or a conceptual tag in order to reconfigure the exhibition according to the various thematic relations between particular objects. This video is an archive of that project.