Tag Archives: museums

Raven and the First …. Immigrant

Raven and the First People (Bill Reid), and Raven and the First Immigrant (Nicholas Galanin). Source: Nicholas Galanin, http://silverjackson.tumblr.com/

I’m a big fan of classic Northwest Coast art – it’s hard not to be.  But there is also a large and highly talented array of indigenous Northwest Coast artists who work in a variety of media and contemporary idioms.  One who recently caught my eye is Sitka Tlingit artist Nicholas Galanin.  You probably recognize the figure in the foreground above: Bill Reid’s iconic “Raven and the First People” (if not from class, then from your 20$ bill), which tells the story of Raven-Travelling in ancient times, finding a clamshell, hearing noises inside, and releasing people and animals  into a transforming world.

But wait, what’s that figure in the background, on the other side of the glass window, in the courtyard of the MOA?

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Bird bones at the RBCM

Swainson's Hawk skull. Three views from RBCM Avian Osteology site.

I made a post the other day on a cool M.A. thesis about how to tell deer, bear and human wrist and ankle bones apart.  Identification of bones is one of the essential specialist activities in archaeology: the bones don’t come out of the ground labelled, and yet they are a key way to understand past diet, behaviour and environmental change.  Being able to identify a bone from the ground to the species it comes from requires a collection of bones of known species – a comparative collection – and these do not grow on trees.  They are laborious to produce and finicky to curate.  The one at the University of Victoria, for example, contains over 1,500 skeletons and is in constant use by archaeologists and biologists, not to mention the awesomely talented people at Pacific IDentifications. Mind you, the UVIC collection is one of the best anywhere in North America, but most archaeology departments and even many consulting archaeologists attempt to have a basic comparative collection on hand.  This is a burdensome chore!

While looking at pictures will never be a substitute for a three-dimensional bone for comparison, it can nonetheless be better than nothing.  It is therefore nice to see a really useful, if preliminary, set of web pages at the Royal B.C. Museum on Avian osteology.

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Listening to Our Ancestors: An exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian

Coast Salish Cod Lure. Source: NMAI

Listening to Our Ancestors” is a nice online exhibit which resulted from a process by which 11 west coast First Nations and Tribes came to the National Museum of the American Indian (a fairly recent, major addition to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.) and created mini-exhibits reflecting their own worldviews and the categories they deemed important.  As such, each community’s sub-page is a glimpse into their specific cultural heritage and priorities – indigenous curation, you could say.

While much of the focus is on ceremonial items, some communities also choose to focus some attention on their more everyday technology, which is more in line with my own interests.

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Edenshaw Compote

Argillite and ivory compote attributed to Haida master carver Charles Edenshaw. Height: 30 cm. Source: Liverpool Museum.

I only have a short post today since I am up to my neck in alligators, courtesy of my day job.  So, take a moment and check out the spectacular argillite compote (a pedestaled serving dish), attributed to Haida master carver Da.axiigang, Charles Edenshaw.  This particular dish is in the collection of the Liverpool Museum – an institution that  holds a collection donated by well-known coastal collector, casual ethnographer, and (apparently) former Liverpudlian, Dr. Charles Newcombe – many of the items in their Northwest Coast section must come from this source.  It is one of the more striking pieces of Argillite I have seen in that the form is so clearly derived from silverware: it is sublimely ridiculous, and I can’t help but feel that Edenshaw was in on the joke.  Yes, he would make what would sell, but a piece like this makes me wonder if he wasn’t slyly pulling the touristic leg, somewhat.

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One more update on the Museum of Vancouver’s Petroglyph.

Interior Petroglyph now at Museum of Vancouver, while still in Stanley Park ca. 1980. Source: DanLeen.org

I have posted several times recently on a superb interior petroglyph boulder languishing in a shady courtyard at the Museum of Vancouver.  Together with Heather Pringle’s posts on this topic, we seem to have caught the attention of the Board of Directors of the Museum.

One of the Directors, Anthropology Professor Bruce Miller of UBC, called me the other day.  He consented to me posting notes from our conversation.   Continue reading

More views of the Museum of Vancouver petroglyph problem

Petroglyph from Lone Creek Cabin, Stl’atl’imx Territory, now in an outdoor courtyard at the Museum of Vancouver. Source: Squamish-Lil'wat Centre.

I’ve posted before on the large petroglyph boulder from the central Fraser River that is being kept in a sub-standard context at the Museum of Vancouver.  I found some more pictures of it, from the website of the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre (which is excellent).  These additional pictures confirm there is a serious conservation issue at the Museum of Vancouver.  I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I am still mad about this situation. Continue reading

Reminder: RBCM Open House

If you are in Victoria, this is a reminder that the RBCM open house is today and tomorrow, at which they will explain about their “zoning application”, which I hope means they will also be ready to explain what they plan on doing with the rezoned land (I commented on this previously).  I see in today’s Times-Colonist they lost $491,000 last year, and are projecting no travelling shows until 2012, except the Terracotta Army.  That and the British Museum exhibit each cost about 3 million dollars to mount, as an off-the-shelf travelling exhibit here for a few months.  How much permanent exhibit could one buy for $3,00,000, which would pay for itself every day of the year?  I know they have been forced into a particular niche by funding constraints and all – but it seems to me they are in a financial and existential crisis.  Therefore I hope they are sincere about gathering meaningful public input because I suspect regular readers of this blog have a lot to say about it.

When:  March 6 & 7 2010
Where:  Royal BC Museum
675 Belleville Street
Newcombe Conference Hall

What to Expect: Open House hours between Noon – 3:00 pm.  Zoning project team members will be on-site to answer any questions, and/or have a conversation with you about zoning the Royal BC Museum site.