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5 things to know about Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology

It has been 18 months since the space’s acclaimed collection of Northwest Coast Indigenous carvings and other works were in the public eye.

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Following a massive seismic upgrade to the Great Hall and other additions to the facility, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia reopens its doors to the public on June 13 at 5 p.m. The reopening comes close to the 75th anniversary of the opening of the first iterations of the museum.

It has been 18 months since the space’s acclaimed collection of Northwest Coast Indigenous carvings and other works were in the public eye.

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MOA director Susan Rowley said the 1976 site designed by architect Arthur Erikson has undergone very significant reconstruction. Rowley, curatorial liason Damara Jacobs-Peterson and co-curator Karen Duffek provided some insights into what has been done to the beloved MOA as well as the two new exhibits that are reopening the space.

Here are five things to note about today’s reopening. More information is available at moa.ubc.ca.

Make the Great Hall great again

“In order to make the Great Hall seismically stable, it had to be demolished from below the ground and up,” said Susan Rowley. “This was done after UBC did a scan of the campus and MOA was up near the top of buildings that were considered dangerous in event of an earthquake. So the project was undertaken to protect both human safety and the treasures that are in the space, which is very familiar to many in Vancouver, as well as staying true to Arthur’s vision for the space.”

Rethinking the MOA experience

“This was a chance for us to think through the museum experience to bring some of the content to more contemporary space, working with an Indigenous advisory committee to have their voices reflected in the space,” said Rowley. “If you know us well, you will see the changes such as the addition of some poles that weren’t in the space before but are now.”

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What shows and why

“We wanted to open with shows that supported Indigenous rights and titles and the way Indigenous people have spoken throughout time about those topics,” said Rowley. “Sometimes, people think that conflicts with colonialism are recent but they’ve always been there.”

Moa to be seen, to be heard
To be seen, to be heard exhibit at MOA features this 1929 Nuu-chah-nulth truck float in Dominion Day Parade, Alberni, 1929. Photographer unrecorded. Photo by Michael R. Barrick Photo court /sun

To be seen, to be heard: First Nations in Public Spaces, 1900-1965

“This exhibit is co-curated with my Ts’mysen/Haida scholar Dr. Marcia Crosby and looks at First Nations self-representation in public spaces and, often, events that were very colonial in nature like the Diamond Jubilee or governor general’s visits,” said MOA curator, contemporary visual arts and Pacific Northwest, Karen Duffek. “Most of these images and videos come from the period of really serious legislation towards assimilation such as the anti-potlatch and Indian Act, but show Indigenous peoples representing themselves and being very present as self-determined, Indigenous, modern people. This exhibit explores the images in relation with the far more political history that was taking place.”

Moa in pursuit of venus (infected)
Video still from In Pursuit of Venus (infected) by Lisa Reihana, a new exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology Photo by Courtesy of the artistand Auckla /sun

In Pursuit of Venus (infected): “This is a loan coming from the Auckland Gallery in New Zealand, which has been in the works since pre-COVID times,” says director of MOA’s long-running native youth program, Damara Jacobs-Petersen of the Squamish Nation. “It’s a 32 minute-long piece by Māori artist Lisa Reihana which uses both historical and contemporary sources to weave together the story of Captain Cook and the Māori navigator that assisted him finding his way around. There are Hawaiian, Samoan, Fijian and Māori peoples involved in providing an interpretation of history through an Indigenous lens.”

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