MOA Reopens After Vital Seismic Upgrade
Great Hall, Museum of Anthropology, April 2024. Photo: Brannen Bell.

MOA Reopens After Vital Seismic Upgrade

Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Vancouver, BC - Opening June 13

by Michael Turner

Established in 1949 at the University of British Columbia, the Museum of Anthropology moved to its current glass and concrete home overlooking the Salish Sea in 1976. Designed by local architect Arthur Erickson and landscaped by Cornelia Oberlander, MOA combines grand views of the Coast Mountains and architectural references to the Northwest Coast longhouse with visible storage systems that allow for sustained displays. Like all progressive museums, MOA has made some tweaks over the years. Its most recent edit was groundbreaking.

Faced with a seismic upgrade of its Great Hall, in 2019, MOA embarked on a $40-million federal-, provincial- and university-financed rebuild overseen by one-time Erickson apprentice John Milkovich, in conjunction with First Nations communities and families whose objects and belongings are housed in the museum. In an effort to accelerate the rebuild, the museum closed in January 2023. Concurrent with its June 13 reopening are two exhibitions told from Indigenous perspectives, each covering a different historical period.

Co-curated by MOA’s Karen Duffek and Ts’mysen/Haida art historian Marcia Crosby, To Be Seen, To Be Heard: First Nations in Public Spaces, 1900–1965 is a multimedia exhibition that celebrates First Nations people in British Columbia representing themselves as Indigenous in urban spaces during years of a federal government–led erasure of Indigenous life through potlatch bans, residential schools and assimilationist policy papers. Making its West Coast premiere is Māori artist Lisa Reihana’s Pursuit of Venus [infected] (2015), a 26-metre-long, 32-minute panoramic video response to the 19th-century French style of wallpaper Les sauvages de la mer Pacifique, which erroneously depicts encounters between Europeans and Polynesians as harmonious.

Reopening night June 13, 5–9pm, with performance at 7pm

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