Box of Treasure
EXHIBITION:Barry Herem: A Passion for the Coast
On the traditional Northwest Coast a native family often kept its crest and lineage valuables in a carved chest or box, especially those special items – clan hats and staffs, etc. – designed to be brought out on important social occasions. As a measure of esteem and spiritual security such containers were customarily carved with protective figures on the sides.
This chest design features a mythical human face as protector which, to further mark its importance, is inset in the forehead with what is known as a “copper” – made of hammered copper – which itself symbolizes the wealth and high status of the lineage. The small ovular openings represent areas that were also traditionally inset with decorative shells or otter teeth.