Masks are highly valued by the Kwakiutl, serving as potent manifestations of ancestral spirits and supernatural beings and offering these supernatural entities temporary embodiment and communication through dance and other kinds of performance (Greenville 1998: 14). Masks also allow the wearer to undergo spiritual and social renewal, and serve as an outward manifestation of inward transformations (Pollock 1995: 588-590). However, Northwest Coast tribes do not all share the same myths or characters, nor do they necessarily use masks in the same way during their ceremonies (Malin 1978: 47).
Dr. Francis Rosenbaum, of the Milwaukee Academy of Medicine, donated a 36-piece collection of these reproductions to the MPM in 1954. This donation represents the majority of the collection – exceptions noted as appropriate. The original medical tools found in Pompeii are on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.