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Through the Window: Large Objects from the Ethnologisches Museum Hover Into the Humboldt Forum

Ethnologisches Museum

Yesterday, with extreme precision, an approximately 9-metre-high totem pole from the Haida people (one of the First Nations of Canada) was hoisted by a special crane over the (reconstructed) balcony from which Karl Liebknecht once declared a socialist republic.

The pole, weighing around 800 kilograms, is a so-called house pole made in around 1870 by the indigenous inhabitants of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the coast of mainland Canada. In 1881, it was purchased by the collector Johan Adrian Jacobsen during a collection trip, and was brought to Berlin in 1883.

“The object is artfully wrought, and originally served to convey the history of a family,” explains curator Monika Zessnik, whose responsibilities at the Ethnologisches Museum include the North American collection. The pole, which is topped with an eagle and bears human figures, is carved from a single trunk of a Canadian red cedar, which possesses a particular cultural significance for the Haida people.

Next week, the pole will be exhibited for the first time in 30 years. The procedure will be overseen by representatives of the Haida Nation, who will be joining digitally direct from British Columbia.