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Cole, Douglas.

Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre.cl985.373pp, cloth, $24.9S, ISBN 0-88894-460-8. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Lois Hird

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

In his book Captured Heritage, Douglas Cole, an associate professor of history at Simon Fraser University, presents a detailed account of the nineteenth-century collectors of artifacts belonging to the northwest Indian tribes. The biggest collectors were the major museums. The culture that was apparently disappearing was the motive, and the rivalries that resulted among the museums caused the removal of thousands of objects from the area. Religious and ceremonial objects were favoured, and collectors were most attracted by those with ornamentation. Age was not of paramount importance. It was, however, a short-lived activity, lasting only a few decades, as interest turned to other cultures, and research, rather than collection, became the focus of museums.

The collecting activity involved museums in Europe, Great Britain, and the United States. But Cole focuses on the activity of the Germans and the French, and on the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum, the Field Museum, and the Peabody Museum in the United States. As a result of the foreign interest, attention was stirred locally in British Columbia. Otherwise, there were few Canadian collectors.

The narrative presents a detailed picture of museum activity as the major part of the collection work tell within the era when museums were re-organizing, building, or expanding. It was the time also when museums moved from the dependence on donations to the establishment of acquisition budgets. In the presentation, there are several pioneers given detailed attention. One is Adolf Bastion, the father of German ethnology. Another is German-born Fran/ Boas, associated with the American Museum, who had a rather sophisticated approach that involved searching out the significant meanings of masks. Also included are Spencer F. Baird of the Smithsonian Institution and Charles Newcombe, a British-born medical doctor turned collector, who was associated with American museums as well as the British Columbia Provincial Museum.

In the final part of the book, Cole explores where collecting is today: among collectors and dealers recycling the heirlooms of pioneers, in museums, and private markets. He states that the process will continue in some way as long as there are dealers and markets. The renewed interest in northwest Coast art Cole believes, is part of the twentieth-century reassessment of primitive art from all cultures and periods.

This is a very readable book. Historic photographs complement the text and each chapter is well footnoted. Recommended for senior high school students and anyone with an interest in history.

Lois Hird, Calgary, Alta
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