Centennial Totem Pole Conservation Project

Centennial Totem Pole at Hadden Park

We are reviewing the future of the Centennial Totem Pole located in Hadden Park just south of the Maritime Museum in Kitsilano.

Why we're conserving the totem pole

Considered one of the great cultural artifacts of Canada, the Centennial Totem Pole was carved by the renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artist, Chief Mungo Martin, and has stood in Hadden Park since 1958. Time and weather have deteriorated areas of the pole so will remove and assess the pole for conservation.

For up to two years, our Public Art Program will review possible future restoration and conservation opportunities in consultation with a variety of stakeholders. We've initiated consultations with the descendants of carver Mungo Martin, conservators, and engineers. Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations have also been informed of this work.

What's happening

Preparations underway for totem pole removal

The Centennial Pole will be moved to a site to dry out, allowing conservators to assess its condition and work with the City and descendants of Chief Mungo Martin to develop a conservation plan. 

A strong back has been designed and fabricated to support the pole during excavation and removal. It's designed to prevent the pole from bending or cracking during removal while mitigating any damage to the carved and painted elements.  

City staff and contractors will work in the park for one to two weeks on site preparation, attachment of the strong back, excavation, and removal of the pole. Transportation of the pole will take place at night to reduce impact on traffic and the neighbourhood.

Recent developments with this project

Totem pole's condition below ground studied

October 2017 – In order to determine how to safely excavate and remove the pole for transportation, the wood below grade was tested by excavating a small section of the concrete base that houses the pole. 

Totem pole temporarily stabilized to preserve its structure

December 2014 – We temporarily stabilized the Centennial Totem Pole to preserve its structural integrity while options for its long-term conservation are identified and evaluated.

Tthe totem pole was stabilized by creating:

  • Buttresses made of Western red cedar timber to prevent the pole from bending
  • A ring of compression pads at the point of contact to protect the surfaces

This fully reversible system protects both the pole’s historic timber, and its painted surfaces, without fastening or boring into the surface. It is expected to be in place for up to two years.

Totem pole's condition studied

May–July 2014 – We conducted a condition assessment followed by an engineering structural analysis. It indicated that the Centennial Totem Pole is generally in good condition, but has localized areas of deterioration.

Our commitment to the project

The City maintains a collection of art and cultural objects. We have committed $200,000 to this restoration to date and are seeking ways to include mentorships in the conservation program. 

Planning for the conservation needs of the Centennial Totem Pole supports the long-term commitment of Vancouver’s designation as a City of Reconciliation and acknowledges the importance of this cultural asset for the city. 

Our partners

The project involves the participation of a number of First Nations, education, and museum partners.

Background

Chief Mungo Martin with his son David Martin and nephew Henry Hunt carved the Centennial Totem Pole. It is 100 feet (30.5 meters) high, representing one foot for each year of the province’s colonial history to 1958.

It displays ten crests of the Kwakwaka’wakw clans. Each crest represents the clan's mythical ancestor, often shown in animal form before becoming men.

A near identical pole presented to Queen Elizabeth stands in Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, England.

Conservation work performed on the totem pole

The Centennial Totem Pole is now sixty years old and requires significant restoration work. 

Since 1966, the following conservation work had been performed on the totem pole.

Year Work completed 
2014 A condition assessment and engineering structural analysis indicates that the Centennial Totem Pole is generally in good condition, but has localized areas of deterioration. 
A temporary, reversible buttressing system is installed to preserve the structural integrity of the pole while options for its long term conservation are identified and evaluated.
 2009 A conservator completes a condition assessment of the large wooden hat on top of the pole. The hat is removed due to deterioration and safety concerns. It is now stored at the Museum of Vancouver.
 2008 Vancouver Parks completes a radar scan of pole to determine the level of deterioration of the first three feet of the pole. 
 1991 The base of the pole is treated to stop rot from forming, fungal damage, and an insect infestation.
 1990 A drilling inspection is completed to evaluate visible areas of rot. 
 1988 City staff coordinate an ownership and condition report that determines that the City of Vancouver is responsible for the pole.

A structural engineer confirms the presence of enough solid wood for the pole to meet the requirements of the Vancouver Building Code bylaw.

 1986 An extensive maintenance of the pole is completed for the City Centennial.
 1966 Surfaces of the pole are repainted.

Contact our Public Art Program

publicart@vancouver.ca

Address
Public Art Program
City of Vancouver
501 - 111 West Hastings St
Vancouver, BC V6B 1H4

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