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Carving StudioCarving Studio


Carving Studio,

This is the second version of a traditional Haida house to be erected in Thunderbird Park. The first was destroyed by fire on July 28, 1980, while under construction.


In 2008 engineering surveys revealed that the current Carving Studio building, the third one built in Thunderbird Park, was no longer structurally sound. The building was closed for safety reasons and the Museum embarked on a series of consultations to determine what should be done.

Discussions with First Nations groups, artists and other interested parties indicated that the Carving Studio was no longer the influential teaching and interpretive centre it had been for more than fifty years. Now, there are many successful carving programs operated by First Nations throughout the province.

It was decided not to replace the building but to consider new kinds of programming more appropriate to contemporary times. The space once occupied by the Carving Studio building will be part of future plans for improvements to the entire Museum precinct.


Carving Studio Story

The form and construction of the carving studio are based on those of a traditional six-beamed Haida house. The six massive roof beams are supported at the front and back of the house by wide, horizontal planks that fit into notches in the corner posts, which extend above the roofline. Vertical boards form the walls. They are held in place by wide planks at the base and roof, and can be opened up to provide ventilation. The boards and planks are split from cedar trees and smoothed by hand-held adzes. In the original house form, the frontal pole would incorporate the oval entrance to the house. A traditional Haida six-beamed house would be much larger than the version in Thunderbird Park.

Throughout its 25-year history, the carving studio has served as a work space for master carvers and apprentices. It continues as the location of the Echoes of Ancestry program developed and administered by the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. During the summer months, the adzed cedar boards that form the northwest side house are removed, allowing the public to interact with carvers and other participants in the program and to learn about First Nations arts and cultures from the artists themselves.

Start of Carving Shed being dismantledCarving Studio demolition, 2009. Photo by Kim Martin

Roof coming off the Carving ShedCarving Studio demolition, 2009. Photo by Kim Martin
Crane lifting off big beamsCarving Studio demolition, 2009. Photo by Kim Martin

Aerial view of the roof taken off the Carving ShedCarving Studio demolition, 2009. Photo by Kim Martin

Carving Studio, ca 1981. RBCM 5AB360a.jpg
Carving studio without house frontal pole, ca 1981. RBCM 5AB361a.jpg
Carving Studio, ca 1981. RBCM 5AB370a.jpg
Replicating a pole. RBCM 5AB526a.jpg
Carving Studio burning, July 28, 1980. RBCM 5AB462a.jpg

Tim Paul carving a pole. RBCM 5AB539a.jpg
Raising House Frontal Pole, June 9, 1984. RBCM 5AD189a.jpg
Carving Studio, June 9, 1984. RBCM 5AG269a.jpg
Carving Studio burning, July 28, 1980. RBCM f05248a.jpg
Carving Studio burning, July 28, 1980. RBCM f05252a.jpg
Moving Hounouring Pole, October 1999. RBCM P1010002.jpg
Erecting Honouring Pole, October 1999. RBCM P1010028.jpg

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Interview with George Hunt Jr. :Mungo Martin's legacy
RBCM video, 2006
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Interview with Leslie McGarry, Cultural Director, Victoria Native Friendship Centre
RBCM video, 2006
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