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March 21 2012

A Relic of Captain Cook’s Third Voyage Returns Home

The Globe and Mail

A featured article by Mark Hume in The Globe and Mail reports that a significant relic of Captain James Cook’s Third Voyage to the Pacific has been returned to the Northwest Coast after more than 200 years abroad. The Nuu-chah-nulth club had remained in private collections in England and the United States before Donald Ellis negotiated its donation to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, with funding provided by Canadian philanthropist Michael Audain.

Anthony Shelton, director of the museum, welcomed the club as ‘an extraordinary, exceptional object with a tremendous amount of power and presence.’ Measuring 32cm in length, the yew club is carved in the form of a naturalistic hand gripping a sphere. The work was gifted to Captain Cook by Nuu-chah-nulth Chief Maquinna on his visit to Vancouver Island’s Nootka Sound in 1778.

After Captain Cook was killed in Hawaii in 1779 the club was returned to his widow in England, and remained in several private collections. Late last year, Donald Ellis acquired the club from the estate of an American dealer. ‘It is the singular most important object I have handled in my 35-year career,’ he is quoted as saying.

The article goes on to report that Mr. Audain was deeply grateful for the opportunity to return the club to a Canadian museum. ‘This is the most important First Nations work that I've ever encountered. It's important in terms of world history, the history of exploring, and it's also important in terms of the culture of the Northwest Coast.’ The Audain Foundation for the Visual Arts has donated more than $20-million to Canadian galleries and museums over the years.

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