This is an update for anyone who participated, or had an interest in, the Sunwapta Totem Pole project.
Since overseeing the delivery of The Mathias/Sunwapta Totem last fall to the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM), I have been in occasional contact with them to observe their progress and research. In April of this year, I was asked to write a letter to the Edmonton Community Foundation in support of a grant proposal by The Friends of The Royal Alberta Museum Society. This letter was co-signed by two of my co-conspirators in this venture, Al Thompson and Alan Mabee. Today, I am very happy to report that a grant from The Foundation has been awarded to the Conservation Project, in the sum of $24,000. This is in addition to the $3210.00 the donor group provided to the Conservation Fund last November. This is, to say the least, a massive boost to those who have worked hard to get it this far and re-enforces the high regard The RAM, The Friends Society and Edmonton Community Foundation have for this heritage project.
What this funding will do is allow the Museum to enlist expert help in bringing the Totem to its full potential for interpretation and display. As well, it will stabilize its fragile condition after many decades in the elements. Two such experts from the West Coast will begin work almost immediately. Cody Mathias is an aboriginal totem carver and the grandson of our Totem’s original craftsman, Joe Mathias. He will bring his tools and skill to do any replacement/repair of damaged woodwork as well as consulting on the original colours used. Andrew Todd, from Bowen Island, BC is a conservator with a specialization in totem poles. He has worked with First Nations groups on numerous projects since 1987. And the most interesting part, as an observer, is the public can witness these men at their trade in the public gallery at the Museum. Both will be here from July 5 to 9, 2011 working in the alcove just to the right as you walk in the main doors of the Museum. The Totem is, in fact, there now. Carefully wrapped following storage and treatment for a slight ant issue. Yes, the Totem did have a bit if an infestation problem, but its all better now!
I would encourage anyone who is able to go down to the Museum during this week and see the work taking place first hand. After this time, the Totem will remain there for work by other conservators. There may be a need to take it away for more intense treatments as required, but it will be visible for much of the summer.
In the end, I believe the arrival and conservation of The Mathias Sunwapta Totem is very timely for its future within the Museum. Many of you will know the RAM has been in the news recently with the announcement of a major new facility announced by the Province. For those who haven’t heard, the Alberta Government will be constructing a new $340 million dollar RAM in downtown Edmonton, with an expected completion date of sometime in 2015. I hope this bodes well for the Totem as the planners and curators determine how the new galleries will take shape in the coming years. Its prominence in both funding and public profile should help its inclusion in what promises to be a spectacular showcase of our history.
Thanks for your continued interest.