Totem pole


The Haida pole seen rising from the ashes of the museum (see Before and After section), is one of the most remarkable images of war-time Liverpool (now World) Museum. Poles are raised to mark potlatches, deaths, building a new long house, forming new political connections through marriage and receiving a name. This pole stood in front of “Something Terrible Happened House” – the northernmost house in the village of Xaayna (Haina), Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands, Northwest Coast, Canada). Carved during the 1860s or 1870s from western red cedar, it shows the crest figures of both wife and husband who lived there. The pole was too big and too heavy to evacuate from the museum prior to 3 May 1941 so it remained as the centrepiece of the Middle Mayer Hall that displayed the museum’s important ethnographic collections. Despite the intense fire, the flying shrapnel from the bomb and the flooding from the hosespipes, the pole survived. Once again the pole can be seen in the atrium of World Museum.