Argillite carving is a distinctive art form unique to the Haida artists of Haida Gwaii. It is an artistic tradition rich in symbolism, family ties, and cultural history. Presented is the MAE’s Argillite Collection which contains over eighty historic carvings from prominent Hida artists. This collection provides the unique opportunity to explore the beauty and intricacies of Haida artistic expression along with the history of argillite carving in British Columbia.


The MAE’s Argillite Collection consist of over eighty carvings featuring iconographic images of animals and people from Haida culture. This special collection was donated to Simon Fraser University by a private donor in 2011 and has been featured in several of the museum’s exhibits over the years. Each carving was purchased by the donor and their family during their trips to and around Haida Gwaii. To the family, these carvings act as reminders of these trips and hold some of their happiest memories. The carvings and their history also reflect some of the earliest beginnings of indigenous tourism in BC. 

Displayed on totem poles, serving wear, or as statues each of the argillite carvings depict different aspects of Haida culture. This includes Haida oral histories, origan stories, and even current events. 

If you were an argillite carver, what would you make? What materials would you include?

One of our students, Nicola, performed 3D imaging on two of the statues during her NSERC USRA research semester. The video above shows how we can present 3D renderings of physical artifacts.


The Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology would like to acknowledge the generosity of the donor who gifted this argillite collection. It was amassed while resident in Prince Rupert directly from the many carvers he came to know and respect.

We are grateful to be trusted as caretakers for the collection and hope it continues to inspire Museum visitors for years to come.