Results 1-8of 8 Reviews
Scarborough, England, United Kingdom
November 12, 2011
From journal Vancouver Fun
Perth, Scotland, United Kingdom
November 16, 2010
From journal A smug city on a cool coast
October 12, 2004
Terrified by gigantic Raven and the vastness of the world, the creatures refused to leave the clamshell. But then, in the words of Haida artist Bill Reid, "the Raven leaned his great head close to the shell and with the smooth trickster’s tongue…he coaxed and cajoled and coerced the little creatures to come out and play in his wonderful, shiny, new world."
Entering the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia transports me into the realm of the First Nations, a complex world peopled by shape-shifting creatures and ancestral spirits. The Great Hall of the museum is filled with totem poles and monumental figures from cultures I’ve never heard of: Kwagiutl and Gitxsan, Saanich, and Tsartlip. I feel I’m slipping sideways as I contemplate these foreign, enigmatic objects.
One piece emerges as my North Star, helping me get my bearings in this terra incognita. That piece is Bill Reid’s "Raven and the First Men," a compelling sculpture that dominates the museum’s rotunda. Reid describes Raven as a self-centered, incorrigible catalyst of cosmic change. He creates not through intent, but because he simply can’t help himself. Foremost among his many appetites is curiosity.
Now looking at other pieces throughout the museum, both ancient and modern, I perceive a continuity, the same underlying playfulness and lyric flow. What strikes me is how resilient these cultures are, how well they adapt to conflicting realities of the modern world, and how they transform themselves effortlessly, much like Raven, who assumes various shapes as he investigates or gets out of trouble.
There is too much to take in on one visit, including a stunning exhibit of abstract paintings by Haida artist Robert Davidson, a mind-boggling collection of artifacts housed in a vast open storage system, and, unexpectedly, an excellent collection of European ceramics. Each merits a separate visit, but today I focus chiefly on the Raven in his myriad forms.
Before leaving the museum, I stop by the bookstore and buy a collection of old Haida tales, The Raven Steals the Light. Each night in my hotel room I read these tales, chuckling over the mishaps of the First Men and the antics of that perennial troublemaker, Raven. By the time I leave Vancouver, the totem images I see everywhere seem less cryptic. Now, rather than elegantly stylized abstractions, I see Raven and Eagle, Beaver and Killer Whale, Wolf, and Sea Serpent – creatures from a time when humans and animals had not gone their separate ways.
And it seems to me that we’ve suffered from making the distinction.
From journal Vancouver Reflections
by Mr. Wonka
Brooklyn, New York
June 17, 2003
Located on the tip of the British Columbia University and just a short walk to the water, the surrounding environment lends the museum a secluded, rustic feel that further enhances the effect of totems seen around the front and back of the MOA. As you step in you’ll immediately be drawn to the Great Hall, which houses a stunning collection of totems and statues from the Haida and other Northwest Coast natives. The high ceilings accentuate the re-creation of the longhouses these people built that were supported by thick, load-bearing poles. This impressive room resembles a big, oversized trophy case of a fanatical collector - I could easily see Bruce Wayne buying this wing to add to his mansion. Given my affinity for slightly macabre work, I stood rapt with curiosity at Jim Hart’s "Wasco", a squat, devilish looking piece. Legends say that the wasco was an ocean-dwelling creature of great strength that was blamed for the disappearance of Haida people that came up missing. Aw, c’mon, it’s so cute, who cares if it murders people?
Over to the right is the Gathering Strength wing, highlighting the work of Mungo Martin, or Chief Nakapankam. He helped keep alive the culture of the Northwest Coast First Peoples, and played a major role in the preservation of their monolithic carvings. I really liked how in this exhibit they featured some modern day natives’ work and talked about how they were keeping alive their cultures’ traditions such as loom weaving.
Another unique feature to the museum are the Research Galleries, a veritable maze of masks, arrows, etc that another place might have stored in the basement. Instead, they’re on display, stored in cases and drawers that the public can poke and prod through (mostly). As you emerge from this area, you’re bound to see Bill Reid’s much ballyhooed "The Raven and the First Men".
Don’t let your museum tour stop inside the building. Saunter around the back for amazing mountain views and to check out a few more totem poles. A short rain had fallen while I was inside, and afterwards the mist about the mountains and fresh smell in the air lulled me into complete relaxation. Liron and I then discovered a sharply declining trail that emptied out onto a secluded beach, part of neighboring Pacific Spirit Park. With hardly anyone around except a few fishermen, we walked out to some rocks that stretched into the water and just chilled for a bit. If you can manage the hike back up, make sure you find your way down here. Just be careful on the way down - it was a little muddy from the rain.
From journal ". . .and then the clouds lifted"
Riverview, New Brunswick
May 31, 2007
There is a fascinating display on the revival of traditional Northwest indigenous art, particularly the contributions of Mungo Martin who spent his later years restoring totems. The museum occupies a site where the Musqueam tribe practiced their weaving skills; those skills have been revived and examples and stories are on display.
Many of the artifacts are housed in drawers and represent far more than the Northwest, although the research collection of native art, masks, and weaving from the area is remarkable. There are also extensive collections of Chinese, Japanese, and African pieces. The catalogue system looks a bit daunting, but once you try it, it is remarkably simple to find the provenance of any article that takes your fancy; it is also efficient if you are interested in a certain culture or art form. It may be possible to see a special exhibit; at the time of our visit, there was an exhibit called "The Village is Tilting", which featured masks and costumes from Malawi.
The pride of place in the museum is the Bill Reid Rotunda. It contains a number of works in different media by the Haida artist, but they pale in comparison to the beautifully set "The Raven and the First Men". (Raven found the first man in a clamshell after the flood. He cajoled them into coming out to enjoy the world.)
Walter Koerner enjoyed a long association with the museum and was pleased to be able to place his extensive collection of 600 ceramic pieces dating between 1500 and 1900 in it. The Koerner gallery is, essentially, the additional bonus to your visit. It is completely different from the other collections, but the late renaissance work is extremely interesting. The museum makes for a great visit.
From journal Adventures in Lotusland: Vancouver
January 29, 2006
From journal Vancouver: City, Beach, Forest, Mountain
July 16, 2008
From journal Visiting Vancouver
Auckland, United Kingdom
December 16, 2002
The musuem concentrates on First Nation artifacts. The exhibitions are impressive, especially the mask collection but not particularly meaningful for the casual visitor. The collections aren’t very large and I’d reccommend going on a guided tour. The guides bring the artifacts to life and also tell about their relevance today as part of the First Nation's re-creation of their cultural identity.
There's also a collection of totem poles outside the musuem that’s worth wandering around.
From journal Two weeks in Vancouver