Burke Museum Artifact Day weeds trash from the treasures
They came with treasures wrapped in Kleenex and Ziplocks, in plastic grocery sacks and bathroom towels. And sometimes, their treasures turned out to be just that, as experts at the Burke Museum unwrapped artifacts of every sort brought to them for identification on the museum's 25th annual Artifact ID Day.
Seattle Times staff reporter
They came with treasures wrapped in Kleenex and Ziplocks, in plastic grocery sacks and bathroom towels.
And sometimes, their treasures turned out to be just that, as experts at the Burke Museum unwrapped artifacts of every sort brought to them for identification on the museum's 25th annual Artifact ID Day.
Unique in the Northwest, Artifact ID Day is the one event of its kind in which a museum gathers its specialists to meet with anyone bringing an object for identification.
The community-outreach event, free with the price of admission to the museum, is a big draw every year, bringing hundreds of people. They lined up an hour before the doors even opened, carrying everything from baskets to wall hangings, spears, carvings, sculptures, paintings, rocks and more.
The museum doesn't do monetary appraisals. But with some of the nation's foremost experts in natural history and cultural objects from the Northwest Coast, Pacific islands and Asia gathered in one room, there isn't much that escapes their ability to identify what's what.
Bought at flea markets, antique stores, passed down by relatives, found in the walls during a remodel, thrown up by a plow on the family farm — you name it, you would have heard it, as people unwrapped their mystery items.
Part "Antiques Roadshow," part Christmas morning, the suspense of finding out just what they had been holding onto all this time was part of the fun.
"We found this in the wall when we remodeled the kitchen," said Jeff Valcik of Seattle, opening a gun case full of mysterious items, including arrows, for Jim Nason, curator emeritus at the Burke, to consider.
Valcik's twin sons, Eli and Nolan, 9, looked on wide-eyed as Nason evaluated a tusk that a sailor friend had given Valcik. Was it really a relic from a whaling ship, as the antique shop had promised?
The striations and resin bubbles on a cut surface made it — junk, a rude surprise, to be sure. And not one Valcik intended to share with the buddy who gave it to him. "I won't tell him, but it may find its way to Craigslist next week," Valcik said.
But there were also real finds, including some particularly beautiful Plateau Indian-style beaded moccasins and bags.
And then there was the box of 40 original Darius Kinsey photographs, including two rare photographs of Snoqualmie tribal members, owned by Laurie Faaberg, of Arlington.
Kinsey is best known for his photographs of logging activities at the turn of the century in the Northwest, but his scenics and portraits also are prized.
Faaberg's photographs were stapled to construction paper and kept in a cardboard box wrapped in Christmas paper. That's just the way they had always been, since her father bought the photos from Kinsey's niece at a garage sale in Sedro-Woolley for $5, Faaberg said.
Faaberg has held onto the photos for years, and she isn't quite sure what she wants to do with them, she said. Robin Wright, curator of Native American art at the Burke, paged through the photographs slowly, taking their measure.
"They are fabulous," she said, "The real deal."
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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