OPB on the legacy of the Summer's Collection

06.02.2019 By:

Travis Stewart pressed suction-cup handles — the kind you might expect to see in a spy movie — firmly onto the museum display glass.

It was a Wednesday in late May and Stewart’s first major exhibit was coming to an end.

He worked swiftly but carefully to pull panes from the wall in the dim orange glow of display lights.

Behind four glass panels were 16 historic artifacts originally belonging to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde: a dance rattle made from deer toes, a seed basket and beater, a horned hunting cap, to name a few. The items had been on display at the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center in Grand Ronde, between Salem and the coast, for the past year.

The small, spare, circular room inside an oversized bentwood box where Stewart worked was just one product of a decadeslong campaign to repatriate ancestral items to the tribes.

That effort — which included several trips to London and the construction of a museum and vault — resulted in an atypical one-year loan from the British Museum to bring the items home to Oregon.

“We didn’t just want to get these items from the [Rev. Robert] Summers Collection loaned and to come in and be on display for a year,” said Stewart, the tribe’s interpretive coordinator. “… What we wanted was the traditional knowledge that went into making those.”

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