2010 Colloquium Series

On Friday, April 2, Emily Moore (Ph.D. Candidate, History of Art), will present a talk titled "Totem Poles and 'Kodak Fiends': Reading the New Deal Totem Parks." Location: Room 101, Archeological Research Facility, 2251 College Avenue (on the UC Berkeley campus). Time: 4pm.

Synopsis: Toward the end of the New Deal (1938-1942), Tlingit and Haida men enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established seven totem parks in Southeast Alaska, parks which were intended to attract tourists and their dollars to Alaska Native art. To create the parks, the CCC removed nineteenth-century totem poles from abandoned Native villages and restored or replicated the poles, erecting the new versions in carefully designed parks in major towns. This talk examines how the totem parks worked to help tourists "read" the totem poles--long the enigmas of the Northwest Coast--by activating "genres of viewing" with which many tourists were already familiar: English and French landscape gardening, the rustic architecture of national parks, and the touring patterns of World's Fairs. I argue that these viewing contexts were quoted in the New Deal totem parks to help de- and then re-code the totem pole, transforming it from an esoteric clan crest story to a familiar symbol of American heritage (a major project of the New Deal). I also consider a variety of tourist snapshots of the totem parks in the 1940s to speculate on the ways in which tourists actually viewed the poles, often in very different ways than the CCC had intended

Speaker Bio: Emily Moore is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History of Art at UC Berkeley. Raised in Ketchikan, Alaska, she is writing a dissertation on the New Deal totem parks of Southeast Alaska from her new base in Anchorage.

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