It was January 2014 and the Seahawks were about to head to the Superbowl for the first time in years. Everyone seemed to be getting into the Seahawks craze.
I was managing digital communications for the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and we received a question from a Twitter user about the Seahawks logo and whether it may have been inspired by Native art. I took that question to the Burke’s former curator of Northwest Native Art, Robin Wright, and she looked into it.
A few days later Robin shared a photograph of a large Kwakwaka’wakw mask in a black-and-white book from the 1950s that looked incredibly similar to the original Seahawks logo. The original mask’s artist was unknown, but we got to work putting together a blog post for the Burke website, hoping to learn more about its history.
I created a simple graphic that showed the old logo facing the mask in the book to show the striking resemblance.
It went viral.
We had local, national, and international media reach out. The Seahawks got in touch with us to feature the story on their blog.
Within a week the story had reached a small university museum in Maine and they contacted the Burke to let us know the mask was in their collection. They weren’t aware of its connection to the Seahawks logo. We documented the latest developments on our blog and the story received another wave of attention.
We eventually created a Kickstarter campaign to fundraise to transport and display the mask at the Burke Museum as part of our Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired exhibit. Upon its arrival, Native communities came together from throughout the region in a welcome ceremony / press event.
Native artists visited the mask and shared their knowledge, contributing to what we learned about the mask. Native communities, visitors, and even Governor Inslee had the opportunity to admire it in person.
We even hosted a Seahawks pep rally in January 2015—one year after the mask discovery—when the Seahawks returned to the Superbowl for a second year.
The mask eventually returned to the Hudson Museum in Maine. Despite that, people often refer to the Burke Museum as the place with the “Seahawks mask.”
It’s crazy to think that this all started with a simple tweet to the Burke Museum.