Edenshaw was a master carver of argillite, a “black slate” unique to the Haida Gwaii islands of the Pacific Northwest. Haida people traditionally carved in wood, but the advent of trading posts in the 1820s sparked this new art form for sale to European-Americans.


Argillite Platter
Made by artist Charles Edenshaw, Canada
Dates to ~1880




Wood was the traditional material for carving on the Northwest Coast, but with the advent of permanent trading posts in the 1820s the Haida of British Columbia began carving argillite for sale to European-Americans.

Starting around 1865, Haida artists carved traditional design motifs on argillite, a black shale found only in the Queen Charlotte Islands known as Haida Gwaii, the ancestral home to the Haida.

This platter representing a shark, a shaman and a halibut spirit helper, was carved around 1880 by Charles Edenshaw, one of the master artists of the Northwest Coast. It belonged to one of the largest collections of argillite art amassed in the early 20th century by Lee Morgan Pearsall, who bought from dealers selling historical pieces and works of living artists.

Susan Milbrath
Curator, Latin American Art and Archaeology*
Florida Museum of Natural History


On display Sept. 23, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018, Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating: 100 Years @FloridaMuseum celebrated the Museum’s rich history. Each Museum collection was asked to contribute its most interesting items and share the stories that make them special. Though the physical exhibit is closed, this companion website remains online, providing an opportunity to experience the Florida Museum’s most treasured specimens.

Exhibit Area: Objects Tell Stories

Theme: Beautiful Artistry

Cover of the All Things Beautiful bookWant to see more? Explore more than 300 breathtaking color photos of plants, animals, fossils and cultural heritage materials from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s collections in the award-winning book All Things Beautiful available from the University Press of Florida.

*This title was accurate at the time the exhibit was on display in 2017. Please visit the collection website to verify current staff and student information.

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