What are Vancouver’s museums collecting now? Two more perspectives from the ‘other side’Posted by: Rosemary Poole on December 07, 2009 / 11:20 AM
Here’s that post I’ve been promising—long overdue! Consider this the last entry on the collecting-practices talk we hosted a couple weeks back, where we invited museum directors from the city’s west side—what Dr. Anthony Shelton of the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) refers to as the “other side”—to discuss their most recent acquisitions.
First, there was MOV’s Nancy Noble discussing the myriad changes we’ve made in recent months (a Q&A based on her presentation is found here). She also discussed the challenges of managing a collection that often reflects the “colonial wanderings” of Vancouver residents, rather than our new direction as a museum of Vancouver. Our name change wasn’t mere wordplay.
Then there was Dr. Shelton, who sees MOA returning to its “original principles” after wanderings of a different sort. When MOA was founded in 1949, the idea was to create a museum of world arts and culture. That’s the objective now, too. When MOA unveils its major renovation in January 2010, expect to see objects and ideas organized broadly by oceans, not continents, to underscore the fluidity of culture, spirituality, and philosophy.
Stories exploring the relationship between the world and Vancouver will be another area of emphasis. In collecting terms, this means a focus on acquiring or commissioning contemporary pieces, and efforts to grow the collections of regions currently under-represented, particularly Latin America, Europe, and parts of Africa. An exhibit planned for 2011 will look at beliefs between places and feature the work of 15 master-folk artists. Working title: Heaven, Hell and Somewhere in Between.
Dr. Wayne Maddison of the forthcoming Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC isn’t reshaping a history museum nor returning to a past vision, but rather, attempting to create a new institution from a collection of specimens amassed by university researchers over the years. MOV’s collection represents colonial wanderings; Maddison calls the Beaty’s an “accidental accumulation.” For him, the challenge is transitioning from neglected and varied collections to a consolidated public museum. Moving forward, they’ll be seeking items suited for display—specimens like the stunning blue-whale skeleton that will hang in their atrium, and, no doubt, be a major draw when the museum opens in 2010. We can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.