'It belongs in a museum': Rare sealskin parka donated to Edmonton Goodwill store
EDMONTON -- The search is on to find a new home for a small piece of Canada’s history – a rare sealskin parka that was donated to an Edmonton thrift store.
A sealskin parka was dropped off at the Whyte Avenue Goodwill location last week. The coat likely dates back to the 1960s or 70s, and bears a tag "Handmade by Eskimos, Holman NWT Canada."
Because of the heritage value of the item, Goodwill felt that it wasn’t appropriate to put it on the floor for sale, and is instead trying to find a museum in Alberta or northern Canada to take the coat.
"We felt strongly about the cultural significance of the item, therefore could not put the item on our floor as we believe it belongs in a museum of some sort," Doug Roxburgh, marketing manager for Goodwill Industries of Alberta said in an email.
The charity has already uncovered some information about the history of the coat. Ryan Silke, a curator’s assistant from the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife said that the coat was likely produced by a cooperative in Ulukhaktok (formerly Holman Island) to encourage the selling of Inuit art to outside markets.
"The founding of these cooperatives was encouraged by the Canadian Government in the 1950s, intended as agencies for selling Inuit art to outside markets and later expanded to serve Inuit consumer needs and to experiment with new commercial ventures such as print making, embroidery, wall hangings, dolls, and clothing," Silke wrote in an email to Goodwill and CTV News.
"Apparently, the Holman Cooperative stopped mass manufacturing sealskin coats in the 1980s due to a drop in the market value of them, although private seamstresses in the communities continued to make them on commission based on continued limited demand."
In addition to trying to find a museum to take the coat, Goodwill is also trying to find the original owner to thank them for the donation.
"We would like to thank them for their generosity, as we know their donation would be geared towards raising funds to help those with disabilities to gain meaningful employment, but we also are aware that this piece should be held in the highest regards, because of its cultural and historical significance," Roxburgh said.