The heyday of anthropological collecting on the Northwest Coast took place between 1875 and the Great Depression, when public and private funds largely collapsed. The scramble for skulls and skeletons, poles, canoes, baskets, feast bowls, and masks, pursued sometimes with respect, but often with rapacity, went on until it seemed that almost everything not nailed down or hidden was gone. This period of intense collecting coincided with the growth of anthropological museums, such as the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History, and Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. Field collectors, including James Swan, Franz Boas, and George Dorsey, were intense rivals both in the race against time to preserve material culture and in the race to collect, sometimes unscrupulously, more artifacts than a rival museum could. A new preface by the author, Douglas Cole, addresses repatriation rights and will be of particular interest to those seeking to understand museum collecting in light of current issues regarding repatriation of grave goods and artifacts.
Douglas Cole examines the process of collecting in the context of the development of museums and anthropology. The main North American museums with Northwest Coast collections -- the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History, Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, the Royal British Columbia Museum, and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa -- were intense rivals in the race against time.
For the new edition of Captured Heritage, Douglas Cole has written a preface in which he outlines developments since the book's first publication in 1985. Since that time, for example, the Kwagiulth Museum and Cultural Center on Quadra Island and the U'Mista Museum and Cultural Center at Alert Bay have been successful in having some of their artifacts repatriated.