on January 29, 2006
On the campus of UBC, stretched out along Point Grey with Burrard Inlet to the north and Strait of Georgia to the west, this site was probably one that the First Nations people themselves inhabited for centuries. This building and the collection it houses are terrific introductions to the people and cultures of the northwest. It should be a part of your itinerary in Vancouver, regardless of your interests: anthropology, historic, craft, arts, architecture are all a large part of this place.Designed by Arthur Erickson, whose work is found throughout Vancouver, the large concrete-and-glass facility gives these artifacts a beautiful home. It begins with the front doors, nearly 9 feet high, a carved depiction of the history of one of the regional people. The building looks to the inlet to the north, with the Great Hall bounded by an impressive 30-foot floor-to-ceiling glass wall. The entire facility echoes the post-and-beam architecture employed throughout the area. Major pieces are displayed throughout the museum. The size of the facility allows for some very big items, including the walls of lodges, totems, and others. They're interspersed with interactive displays that allow you access to oral histories collected from principal members of the First Nations in the mid- to late 20th century. In addition, the recent work by artists from these peoples is also on display, including the stunning large-scale cedar piece "The Raven and the First Men," by Haida artist Bill Reid, on permanent display in the Rotunda. This piece itself is worth the visit.Outside, a Haida village has been recreated, crafted in 1962 by Reid and Doug Cranmer. Be sure to head outside and to the west to see the family house, the mortuary house, and a collection of poles, including one in honor of Reid.If you enjoy the art of these peoples, you'll find the gift shop hard to pass up. From postcards to posters to replicas of major pieces, there is a host of beautiful items available here. Erickson was charged with making the museum's entire collection available to the public as well. So in addition to the galleries, the University's anthropology collection is at your fingertips. This includes things from around the world, not just the northwest.Following your visit, you have access to some of Vancouver's major beaches. Wreck Beach is just a short jaunt west and south along Marine Drive. If you're staying in central Vancouver, consider stopping in Kitsilano as you head back. Fourth Avenue in particular is a long stretch of great shops and restaurants.
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