With the fate of Tacoma’s totem pole still undetermined, the city’s Arts Commission is now set to convene a “de-accession” review panel on June 4 to consider whether the aging artifact should be removed from the municipal art collection.
During the special meeting, panel members will be tasked with reviewing the city’s de-accession policy, or the formal process to remove an artwork from the city’s collection. The panel will then consider its recommendation based on health, safety and cultural considerations.
As we’ve written about here, here, here and here, two city commissions and an ad hoc working group have been considering what to do with the aging 83-foot tall totem pole since April, after structural engineers probed a cross-section and found it “compromised by at least 50 percent,” according to a consulting engineer’s report.
Because of a potential falling hazard, the consultants recommended the city to find a permanent bracing solution or take the pole down. City engineers have since fenced off the pole and temporarily braced it with a steel collar and rods anchored to concrete blocks.
In late April, when a city engineer reported to the landmarks commission that his team was seeking a permanent bracing system to keep the pole up another 20 years, several landmarks commissioners questioned whether that was the appropriate action. A working group later tentatively recommended that the pole be taken down and left to rot in a city park somewhere with interpretive signage explaining the pole’s unique history.
Commissioned by local boosters, two Alaskan tribal members carved the pole for Tacoma in 1903, partly to best a 60-foot tall pole stolen from Alaskan village and erected in Seattle four years earlier. Tacoma’s pole was declared a city landmark in 1975 and long has been part of the city’s municipal art collection.
The landmarks and arts commission, both of which have authority over the pole, have yet to make a final decision on its future. Regardless of what the de-accession review panel recommends, both commissions still hold dominion over the pole’s future. City officials have said no decision will be made without public input.