Museum totem pole to be restored, raised during Celebration 2008

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The "Four Story" totem pole in front of the downtown city museum will be restored and raised for Celebration 2008 in June.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

The nearly 70-year-old, 50-foot-tall totem pole sits to the right of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum entrance. It was last restored 15 years ago, according to curator Addison Field.

Lee Wallace, grandson of original carver John Wallace, will do the restoration, which includes reattaching an oystercatcher head that fell off about two years ago. The restoration process will begin in April, and a totem pole raising ceremony is planned for June 5 to 7.

Celebration brings more than 1,500 Native dancers to Juneau every two years. The five-day festival also includes canoe racers, artists and storytellers. Sponsor Sealaska Heritage Institute estimated an attendance of 5,000 two years ago.

Funding for this year's estimated $18,000 restoration project will come from the Juneau Rotary Club and an Alaska State Museums grant of $8,600. The Rotary donated the pole to the city in 1962, and it was moved to its location at the corner of Fourth and Main streets in 1994.

The totem pole restoration is the second for the museum, which wrote a maintenance plan to rotate projects among the totems it holds responsibility for in the city.

"It's important for coming generations that we preserve what we have now, so that they can be enjoyed in the future," Field said.

A crane will be used to set the totem horizontally on the property in a cradle and under a tent for protection. It will be treated for weather damage, its hardware replaced with stainless steel brackets to hold it in place, and then re-painted by Wallace, Field said.

Wallace, who could not be reached immediately for comment, also likely would carve small cultural elements into the totem pole during restoration, Field said.

"Four Story" depicts the stories of the Monster Frog, the Man with the Fish Trap, Chaawank and the Land Otter Men and the Shaman at Island Point Town, according to Alaska State Museum Curator E.L. Keithahn.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or by e-mail at

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