Art exhibit reopens after multiple theft attempts and 11 years in storage

Art exhibit reopens after multiple theft attempts and 11 years in storage

Agnes Topiak's R. v. Angulalik in May 1957 (Image: Northwest Territories Courts) 

When does a relatively small exhibition of Inuit carvings in a remote northern museum become a case of national intrigue? When those carvings have been concealed for more than a decade due to repeated theft attempts. The Sissons-Morrow collection consists of 21 Inuit carvings that depict significant early criminal and constitutional cases in what is now Nunavut. The collection was started by Justice John Howard Sissons of the N.W.T. Supreme Court, who was given a carving in 1956 by a man he found not guilty of killing his father. Sissons and his successor Justice William Murrow began commissioning local artisans to capture major legal cases in stone, ivory, antler, soapstone and metal.

The works were on display in the Yellowknife courthouse for years but were put into secure storage in 1999, after the display case was broken into twice and some of the pieces stolen. After 11 years in storage, the pieces will be on display at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre until May 2011 to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the establishment of the N.W.T. Supreme Court. No word yet on where the collection will make its eventual permanent home, but Torontonians will probably have to travel to see these historically significant artworks in person—they’ll likely remain in the north.

Northern court art on display in Yellowknife [CBC]