Totem Pole

The totem pole in Whitby Museum is our tallest object. It was donated to the town of Whitby in 1923 by Mr W G Winterburn MINA. Mr Winterburn was a consulting engineer for the British Corporation Registry of Shipping in Vancouver but originated from Whitby, his father having been a jet ornament manufacturer.

He made the offer of the gift via the Whitby Gazette and it was accepted by the then Urban District Council. The totem pole arrived in Whitby by boat and was at first erected by the wall of the council offices and was later moved to the open space in front of the Seaman’s Hospital in Church Street. In 1932 it was decided that the pole was deteriorating and that it should be rehoused in Whitby Museum where it has remained ever since.

This totem pole originates from Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Totem poles were built by Native American tribes living along the Northwest Pacific coast of North America. They were made from cedar which was easy to carve and was weather resistant, and could measure up to 12 metres in height. The carvings were of animals and symbols showing a family’s status within the tribe. Common carvings were ravens, eagles, bears and wolves.