In Focus: Native Arts of the Northwest Coast—Ethnography, Museums, and Conservation

This seminar surveys the Indigenous arts of the Northwest Coast of North America from historical and contemporary perspectives. We will look at a full range of media and object types—quotidian, ceremonial, and commercial—within changing socio-cultural, disciplinary, and aesthetic contexts: colonialism as a factor in artistic transformation; the indigenization of foreign materials, motifs, and ideas, as well as the adaptation of Native forms to commercial markets; the rise of anthropology and the history of museum collection, exhibition, and conservation; cross-cultural theories of the object and changing paradigms of “preservation”; and the complex relationship of contemporary art with its material precursors. Our goal will be to understand Indigenous objects within local histories of cultural production and use, as well as global histories of reception and recontextualization. Students will participate in the early development of a Focus exhibition on Franz Boas’s foundational ethnography and collecting in the region, and course work will include design of digital interactives for the gallery. Opportunities for close object study and original research in the American Museum of Natural History will be provided. 3 Credits.

Satisfies the non-Western requirement.