On Friday morning, after breakfast in the hotel, we drove to Burnaby, picked up our son, Ian and drove to the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology on the UBC campus. We parked in a nearby parkade and walked over to the museum through the light rain (this is Vancouver).
The museum is on the ocean side of Marine Drive – just across from the UBC campus. There is an impressive mosaic in the entranceway that is intended to be a link between the Musqueam people and the land on which the museum stands.
We arrived before the Museum opened at 10:00 AM but the staff invited us in and suggested that we wait in the cafeteria until the others arrived and the museum opened. Our guide through the museum was Madeleine Barois. She is the daughter of a good friend of Dr John Hooge and has a summer job at the museum. The tour began in the entryway to the museum with a display depicting a traditional welcome from the Musqueam people (The People of the Grass) who had lived in this area for millenia.
The entrance hall included some traditional Musqueam art such as this depiction of a man meeting a bear and a traditional carved house post. In addition there are some modern interpretations of the older art forms.
The left-most photo shows a closeup of the modern interpretation of Musquean art. The center photo shows the signage explaining about traditional carved house poles such as the one shown on the right.
The first photo shows some of the traditional waterproof bentwood storage boxes used by the coastal natives. The center photo shows how a board was notched and then bent to form the sides of the box. The two ends of the board were laced tightly together as shown in the third photo to form a waterproof seam. The bottom of the box was laced to the sides in a similar manner.
Our guide showed us where the various coastal tribes lived along the West coast. The other two photos show some of the vessels and boats used during potlatch ceremonies to hold gifts or food.
The sign explains the role of the elaborately carved “house dishes” used by the Kwakwaka’wakw people. They were carved in the shape of an animal or supernatural being and embodied the history and wealth of their owners. The foods they held made visible the rights to resources and territories claimed by the chiefly host.
The rear of the museum display area held a large variety of elaborately carved totem poles, house poles and large carved figures.
Our guide explained the meaning of the welcoming figure with outstretched arms. We then left the West coast galleries and briefly toured the rest of the museum. The museum has a large collection of artifacts from South-east Asia and other areas of the world that were brought to this area by sailors and traders.
The first photo shows a seated Buddha figure. Unlike most museums that only display a small fraction of their holdings, this museum tries to display a large fraction of their holdings in display cases and pull out drawers like those shown above.
The photo on the left shows Portuguese art depicting the last supper of Jesus and of Lucifer. The right-hand photo shows some of the soapstone carvings made by the Inuit for trade with outsiders. In this case chess pieces.
The tour of the exhibits concluded with a visit to the Bill Reid rotunda where his sculpture of “Raven and the First Men” is on display. This sculpture is shown on the new Canadian $20 bill. Bill Reid’s mother was a member of the Haida tribe and he has become a widely known artist and activist promoting the preservation of native lands and old growth forests.
Outside the museum building is a traditional native long house. Because it was still raining, we did not walk out to it.
Before leaving the museum we visited the museum’s gift shop. Ian was attracted to a display of brightly colored socks. There were many beautiful native masks for sale as well. As we left the museum everyone expressed the feeling that the visit had been very worthwhile but that we had just scratched the surface of what the museum had to offer and that a return visit was definitely in order.