This Is Our Life
320 pages, 6 x 9
36 b&w photos, 1 table, 2 maps
Release Date:01 Jul 2014
Release Date:06 Nov 2013
Release Date:01 Nov 2013

This Is Our Life

Haida Material Heritage and Changing Museum Practice

By Cara Krmpotich, Laura Peers, and the Haida Repatriation Committee and staff of the Pitt Rivers Museum and British Museum
UBC Press

In September 2009, twenty-one members of the Haida Nation came to Oxford and London to work with several hundred heritage treasures at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the British Museum. The encounter set a new course for the relationships between the custodians of these cultural artifacts and the Indigenous people for whom the objects are a direct link to their past. Emotional and illuminating, tense and challenging, it was a transformative visit that none would soon forget.

Featuring contributions from Haida people – weavers, carvers, language speakers, youth, and elders – and museum staff – curators, conservators, and collections management staff – who participated in the project, and a rich selection of illustrations, This Is Our Life details the remarkable story of the Haida Project, from the planning to the visit itself and through the years that followed. A fascinating look at the meaning behind objects, the value of repatriation, and the impact of historical trajectories like colonialism, this is also a tender story of the understanding that grew between the Haida visitors and museum staff, as conflicting ideas about subjects as difficult as the repatriation of human remains and the white-gloved institutional approach to handling historical objects became a two-way dialogue.

Beautifully written and illustrated, This Is Our Life offers a compelling and personal view of the transformative potential of a conversation hundreds of years in the making.

Those interested in museum–Indigenous relations and in the anthropology of museums, as well as general readers with an interest in First Nations art and culture.

This inspirational book offers a fascinating ethnography .., The innovative multivocal presentation incorporates a range of opinions and emotions expressed by named curators, conservators, researchers, Elders, cultural descendants, and artists. The authors demonstrate the historical richness of museum collections and highlight their potential for community revitalization and cross-cultural understanding. Anita Herle, Senior Curator for Anthropology, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
This book offers honest insight into the logistics, dilemmas, anxieties, anger, and joy, which combined for a ‘bittersweet’ experience for museum professionals and the Haida through the six months' preparations and during the three-week visit. Gillian Crowther, BC Studies
This highly engaging and timely publication traces the historic bonds established between the Haida and several British museums with Haida collections. Through goodwill, respect, and sensitivity, interactions that might have been contentious were instead amicable and constructive. Detailing a process that represents a model for museums, this book should be read by everyone concerned with fostering productive relationships between indigenous groups and institutions that hold their cultural treasures. Aldona Jonaitis, Director, University of Alaska Museum of the North
Cara Krmpotich is an assistant professor in the Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto. Laura Peers is a curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum and a reader in material anthropology in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford.

Dramatis Personae: Participants in the Haida Project


1 The Paths Bringing us Together

2 Preparations for the Visit

3 Moments of Encounter

Why Go There? An Interlude / Ruth Gladstone-Davies

4 Reflecting on the Visit

5 Maintaining Relationships into the Future

6 Museums As They Are, and Museums As They Might Be





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