UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Double masks of the Northwest Coast of America in museum collections Anderson, Lorna


Sixty masks that open to reveal another mask inside have been examined and are described in detail. Colour photographs and sketches illustrate these "double masks", which were made by native people of the Northwest Coast. The sample described here represents approximately 60% of the double masks in museum collections. Such a substantial number of double masks has not been described previously. These data help fill an existing gap in our knowledge of Northwest Coast masks. The main sources of data for this thesis are museum records, collectors notes, and ethnographies. There is little specific information about the ceremonial use of double masks. Literary sources suggest that double masks were probably used in a similar way to most single masks. Analysis of form and style shows that double masks are carved and painted in the specific style of each Northwest Coast group. However, although the styles of the double masks vary, the basic form is consistent. Eighty-five percent of the masks have a human image inside and the image of another creature outside. This observation supports the idea that Northwest Coast native people consider there is a close relationship between humans and other creatures. Recently, this type of mask has often been classified as a "transformation mask", but older records and ethnographies do not use this term. The word "transformation" is complex, and the recent term "transformation mask" may be misleading. This thesis serves to remind anthropologists that we should be cautious in our use of language. We should be careful to speak of other cultures and societies in ways that reflect their ideas and meanings. The essential feature of double masks is that they open up to reveal another mask inside. For this reason double masks are versatile and dramatic. They provide an innovative masking technique for ceremonial dances.

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