»  Arthur Shaughnessy housepost carvings re-installed following conservation treatment (February 2012)

Arthur Shaughnessy housepost carvings re-installed following conservation treatment (February 2012)

Four carved and painted house posts were recently reinstalled near the entrance of the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians.

The Shaughnessy carvings in the hall

These pieces were part of an important multi-year project to undertake conservation treatments on nearly half of the 77 large scale carvings in the hall. The project was funded by generous grants from the Institute for Museum and Library services (IMLS) and the Stockman Family Foundation.

These four posts were commissioned by the American Museum of Natural History and carved by Kwakwaka'wakw artist Arthur Shaughnessy in 1923. They have been on permanent display since that time.

Installation of a fire suppression system and an upgrade of gallery lighting required the de-installation of the posts, providing an opportunity for treatment. The conservation work lasted for 9 months and included archival research into the history of the posts, detailed documentation of their condition, and investigation of the paint layers and past restoration campaigns that had obscured the original surfaces. Through the efforts of the conservation team, the posts were stabilized and cleaned, revealing much of the original detail of the carving and vibrancy of the painted decoration.


Arthur Shaughnessy carving one of these poles

Temporary conservation lab set-up in the gallery

Conservation treatment of the houseposts

Re-adhering splinters

Removing aged varnishes

Filling splinter edges

Revealing original painted decoration

Removal of aged varnishes

Reveal of claws (on right)

Details: Before and After cleaning