An extensive collection of Indigenous art valued at about $7 million has been given to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia by an anonymous donor.

With more than 200 pieces, the museum says it is believed to be the largest collection of northwest coast First Nations art to return to B.C. in decades.

The museum said in a news release that the donor was first inspired to start collecting after seeing totem poles in Vancouver's Stanley Park in the 1970s.

Bracelet by Charles Edenshaw

The donated collection included this silver Haida bracelet by Charles Edenshaw. It is estimated to have been made between 1890 and 1900 and depicts the raven with the broken beak motif. (UBC Public Affairs)

The donation includes rare historical works, carvings, jewelry, basketry and textiles by West Coast artists like Bill Reid, Charles Edenshaw and Isabel Rorick.

The art will be housed in a new gallery of northwest coast masterworks, funded with a $3-million donation from Montreal charity the Doggone Foundation and a $500,000 grant from the federal government.


The Museum of Anthropology has begun construction on a gallery of northwest coast masterwork, set to be completed in June 2017. (UBC Public Affairs)

Building a B.C. identity 

The Museum of Anthropology's director, Anthony Shelton, says the artwork has been on a remarkable journey after originally being created along the northwest coast. He says it is now returning home to B.C. where it can be shared.

"In terms of the strength of our identity as British Columbians, it comes from great art, from the culture, from the achievements of the people around us, and so having this art back in British Columbia really fortifies everybody," he said.

Grease bowl

This is a Haida grease bowl dating from the 19th century. It has hardwood sides with a cedar base and operculum shell ornamentation. It is part of the collection donated anonymously to the Museum of Anthropology. (UBC Public Affairs)