The Great Box Project

In September 2014, Haida artists Gwaai and Jaalen Edenshaw came to the Pitt Rivers Museum to make an exact replica of the “Great Box,” a masterpiece of Haida art at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Making the replica enabled them to learn directly from the artist of the Great Box and to bring home the knowledge embodied in it for Haida people today.

The box will be used in workshops on Haida Gwaii to train artists there, to encourage discussion about Haida art and heritage, and to encourage the strengthening of Haida culture and identity.

This project is a partnership with the Haida Gwaii Museum and with artists Jaalen Edenshaw and Gwaai Edenshaw.

Project Summary - Link (PDF)

Preparing the New Box

In 2009, Gwaai and Jaalen Edenshaw came to the Pitt Rivers Museum with a Haida delegation to view all the Haida heritage objects in the Museum’s collections. Following the visit, they successfully bid to carve a full size totem pole for Parks Canada, to be raised in Jasper, Alberta. Their design commemorated two Haida brothers who had crossed the Rockies into what is now Alberta. The pole was made from an old growth Western Red Cedar tree from Haida Gwaii. Poles are squared off at the back to remove weight, and Gwaai and Jaalen managed to save a large plank from the back of the tree used for the Two Brothers pole. From that plank they fashioned the new, blank bentwood box that would be used for the Great Box project.

To make a bentwood box, grooves are cut across a single plank in three places where the corners will be. The plank is then steamed and bent into a box shape, and then the base and lid are added.

Geoff Horner’s short video shows Gwaai and Jaalen making the new, blank box on Haida Gwaii in August 2014, with the help of their father, Guujaaw, also an artist.

A slideshow of photographs documenting the making of the New Box.


Using the Great Box for the Carving Project

Museum dilemmas and solutions - Link (PDF)

The New Box Goes Home: Events on Haida Gwaii