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In MOA’s Drawers: Miniature Totem Pole

MOA’s Multiversity Galleries bring over 9,000 objects from around the world to public view. In most museums, collections of this magnitude are stored behind-the-scenes—so how exactly does MOA display so many objects within 14,500 square feet?

Stacked beneath an arrangement of towering glass display cases are a series of specially designed, state-of-the-art drawers. With a gentle tug on the long metal handles the drawers roll open, revealing cultural belongings from past and present to explore.

While the Multiversity Galleries’ drawers are designed to display thousands of objects, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to see them all in one visit. If you’re not sure where to begin in exploring the myriad of objects on display, try finding this miniature piece from the Northwest Coast.

Miniature Totem Pole, made by Roy James Hanuse

MOA collection: a17079. Photos by Jessica Bushey.


In marvelling at the minute details of Roy James Hanuse’s carving, you might find yourself asking, “Did someone shrink one of the iconic totem poles displayed in the Great Hall to scale?” Despite measuring only 4.4 centimetres tall and a fraction of a centimetre wide, this Kwakwaka’wakw carving is no small feat. Take a look at the careful rendering of the figures—what appear to be a whale, beaver, raven and eagle have been meticulously carved and painted in black, red and green. If you peer even closer, you will also be able to make out the artist’s initials, RJH, inscribed on the backside of the pole. While primarily self taught, Hanuse was inspired by illustrations of Mungo Martin’s paintings and received some instruction from Doug Cranmer in the 1970s. Around the same time, Hanuse became interested in silkscreening. This tiny totem pole is quite unique, as the majority of Hanuse’s works in the MOA collection include prints and paintings on paper.


Find me in the Multiversity Galleries: Case 31 (leftside), 3rd section, Drawer 2