The Museum of Anthropology is one of my favourite places in Vancouver, and I even shared that with the world through a feature I did with Google a few months ago. I recently visited for the first time since their renovation and was given the grand tour by Karen Duffek, Curator Pacific Northwest, Contemporary Visual Art.
Design by local architect Arthur Erickson beautifully showcases traditional and contemporary works of art and cultural significance from around the globe. Although the museum’s founding collection was from the South Pacific, there is no missing the First Nations influence.
The great hall is bright and open with floor to ceiling windows allowing the light to float in an surround stunning totem poles, bentwood box displays, welcome poles, and other artifacts.
Winding your way through the new and improved research galleries you’ll take a journey from the South Coast of BC all the way over to China and Botswana. The gallery is setup so that you can circumnavigate the globe as you make your way past each display.
Items within the window cases have also been carefully arranged in order to respect the traditions of their cultures. “We can think about finding a way to express the respect for the spirit that lives in the headdress at the time it is dressed. We need to show people from outside that it is still a living culture, that sacred things are still highly respected,” reads a quote from C. Anne Robinson within one of the window cases filled with Tseshaht headdresses.
Other items have been set out for display under cloths to respect the sacred tradition of the pieces, which are not for everyone’s eyes.
Another new addition is the MOA CAT. This system, setup on touch-screen iMacs, allows you to instantly look up pieces by region, collection, artist or style then locate them on the gallery floor.
As a part of the Museum’s participation in the 2010 Cultural Olympiad, the Border Zones: New Art Across Cultures exhibit will be running until September.
Border Zones features contemporary pieces from around the world including law poles from Australia, a sound installation, and floating boats that make their way from the Audain Gallery, through the museum, out the glass windows, and around the grounds as a part of the piece From the Yangtze to the Fraser.
A centrepiece of the museum is the Bill Reid sculpture The Raven and the First Men which lives in the Bill Reid Rotunda. I found out something new about the rotunda on my tour; turns out it was an old gun placement during World War Two (like a few others along hill above the beach in Pacific Spirit Park or Stanley Park). When Erickson designed the museum, he kept this in mind and built up around it. One of the museum’s most significant pieces now sits atop this wartime relic.
If you have the chance, I highly recommend stopping by the MOA anytime year-round although the Border Zones exhibit is pretty remarkable. The Museum of Anthropology is open daily from 10:00am – 5:00pm (and until 9:00pm on Tuesdays). Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for students, $35 for families and there is a Tuesday evening flat rate of $7.