Introducing Our Design and Arts Programmer!

9 Aug

The Museum of Inuit Art is pleased to welcome our fourth summer student for 2014, Natasha Dinsmore!

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My name is Natasha Dinsmore, I am a Ryerson University student currently working on obtaining my bachelor of design. I am fortunate to be joining the MIA team for the summer as the Design and Arts Programmer, a position that is made possible by Miziwe Biik.

My background is Inuvialuit, my mother was born and raised in Inuvik, so I am very passionate about working with and learning more about Inuit art. I am entering my final year at Ryerson University and my graduating collection will be inspired by my Inuit background. This is also a great opportunity for me to further gain experience in creating promotional materials and honing my graphic design abilities.

Tasks that Natasha will be completing over the month of August include the creation of a brochure to promote our school programs, promotional banners for the website, and the development of art activities for the 2015 calendar year.

- Posted by: Lindsay Bontoft, MIA’s Public Programming and Development Coordinator

A Peek Inside the Museum’s Gift Shop!

31 Jul

As some of you know, the museum has a great gift shop! It carries works by artists from all over Arctic Canada as well as a selection of books, cards, T-shirts and DVDs to choose the perfect gift or souvenir of your visit to the museum. Today we’re going to introduce you to Ashley, our retail sales associate in the gift shop so she can take you along as she does an unboxing of new inventory!

My name is Ashley Cook and I’ve been the retail sales associate at the gift shop for about a year now. I’m here to help visitors find that little something they love so that they have a souvenir of their trip! This past week, we received a new selection of works for the shop, so I thought I’d take you along with me to show you what happens.

The shop works directly with Arctic Co-operatives to choose our inventory. Once we have decided what pieces we want for the shop, they get sent to us processed.

Time to start unpacking this box!

Time to start unpacking this box!

Making sure everyone's here.

Making sure everyone’s here.

If you’re wondering, yes, it is a little bit like Christmas every time we get new pieces for the shop! As soon as we open the box, we have to make sure everyone’s safe and accounted for. Everybody gets checked off of the main list given to us by the co-op that sent us the pieces.

We get by with a little help from our friends...

We get by with a little help from our friends…

Once everybody’s been checked off, they’re all given a unique inventory number so we can keep track of them. All pieces get measured and weighed, and some get photographed for the gift shop’s website.

Tags galore!

I think he may be in the lightweight class...

He may be in the lightweight class…

Once they’ve been measured, priced and photographed, they can go out into the shop for you to take home. Our bear shelves have some new inhabitants now!

Hanging out with some friends

Hanging out with some friends!

We get new pieces fairly regularly here in the shop, so come by and see what’s new! Also, if you’re interested in any of the pieces you saw in this post, or have any questions, feel free to come visit or send me an email! We’re open every day, 10am to 6pm, and you can send me a message at shop@miamuseum.ca.

-Posted by: Ashley Cook, MIA’s Retail Sales Associate in the Gift Shop

Introducing Our Collections Management Officer!

15 Jul
The Museum of Inuit Art is excited to welcome our third summer student for 2014. This Collections Management Officer position was funded by the Métis Nation of Ontario through the Summer Career Placement program.

 
My name is Jessica MacLean, I’m excited to be joining the MIA collections team this summer through a partnership with the Métis Nation of Ontario.

I hold a BA in History and Art from the University of Victoria. This September I will be starting my Post Grad at Fleming in Cultural Heritage Management and Conservation. I am passionate about preserving Aboriginal material culture, so I feel like my time at MIA will be an amazing learning experience. I’m looking forward to working with a variety of objects. I have just started work with the Moorehead Collection, a collection of works on paper by artist Malaya Akulukjuk, which I am already loving. I hope to be able to share my work with everyone on the museum’s Instagram, so stay tuned!

- Posted by: Lindsay Bontoft, MIA’s Public Programming and Development Coordinator

I’ve Got A Bone to Pick!

11 Jul
Manice "Faces (Bone on Bone)"

“Faces (Bone on Bone)” by Manasie Akpaliapik (1955- ), Qikiqtaaluk, ossified whalebone, MIA Collection, 2013.4.30.1-2.

As the Young Canada Works Collections Management Officer here at the MIA, I started my summer off with a group of works – mostly stone sculpture – acquired by the museum in 2013.  I have always been interested in different materials used in the production of objects and Inuit art is no exception. So, from day one, I’m sure I sounded like a broken record: “Alysa, what kind of stone is this?”  Until finally, I began to recognize the vibrant greens of the serpentinite of a Toonoo Sharky, RCA and the bold black basalt in Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s work.

Toonoo Sharky "Spirit Fish"

“Spirit Fish” by Toonoo Sharky (1970- ), Kinngait (Cape Dorset), serpentinite stone, ivory, MIA Collection, 2013.4.41.

Barnabus "Man"

“Man” by Barnabus Arnasungaaq (1924 – ), Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), basalt stone, MIA Collection, 2013.4.55.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon after I familiarized myself with the stone, I was thrown a curve-ball when I was tasked with cataloging and condition reporting Untitled [Faces (Bone on Bone)] by Manasie Akpaliapik.  I found this carving absolutely striking not only in the way the artist has created an eerily lifelike face but because it was a completely new medium to me: ossified whalebone.

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My face during the entire experience.

Ossified whalebone is bone from whales that has been dried out over time making it a viable medium for carvings (prior to my time, someone very eloquently explained the process of whalebone carving on this very blog so I won’t go into great detail here). I have worked with bone before, both animal and human(!), but never whalebone!  This medium has the same bubbly-spongy look to it as a lot of other bone but only whale-sized!  I was entranced by its texture and managed to find a magnifying glass so I could get an even closer look!  For what felt like a long time I was lost in the microcosm of the whalebone. When I returned to reality, I finished cataloging and condition reporting the piece.  As Collections Management Officer I am required to take detailed photos of each piece and these definitely turned out to be some of my favourites!

Detail of "Faces (Bone on Bone)"

Detail of “Faces (Bone on Bone)”

Take a look and see what you think!

Detail of "Faces (Bone on Bone)"

Detail of “Faces (Bone on Bone)”

- Posted by: Lauren Williams, MIA’s Collections Management Officer

Visitor Evaluation: Follow Your Art

8 Jul

Over the past month, the MIA has been conducting visitor evaluations on the ‘Follow Your Art’ program. We want to find out how well the program is working to enhance the visitor experience, and through the administration of surveys, we are getting closer to this goal.

The ‘Follow Your Art’ program is a self-guided option within the museum which seeks to enable visitors to appreciate the stylistic elements of the pieces and gain a deeper understanding of Inuit art.

To gauge the efficacy of this program, we have created a short survey for guests to complete toward the end of their visit. In order to keep answers as accurate as possible, the surveys have been independently filled out by visitors without interference by administrators.

So far, the findings have been interesting! Of all the participants to date, 98.0% of visitors who experienced ‘Follow Your Art’ reported feeling a deeper connection to the art, with 70.0% of that group feeling a personal connection. In addition, 94.1% of respondents experienced an increase in understanding after experiencing ‘Follow Your Art’.

When the data collection is complete, we will be conducting a thorough analysis of the responses, with more detailed findings available. Until then, drop by the museum to experience the evaluation process first-hand!

- Posted by: Serena Ypelaar, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Introducing Our YCW Summer Students!

7 Jun

We would like to formally welcome our two summer students, Serena and Lauren, to the team. MIA will be focusing its energy on some of its core operations over the summer thanks to the help of two summer student positions funded through Young Canada Works. Our ‘Follow Your Art’ program will  undergo rigorous evaluation by our Visitor Services Officer while new acquisitions are processed with the help of our Collections Management Officer.

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My name is Serena Ypelaar and I’m thrilled to have joined the MIA team as Visitor Services Officer!

I’m a student at the University of Ottawa, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in History and English Literature. I’m passionate about museums, and I’m eager to contribute at MIA! This summer, I will be evaluating the Follow Your Art program here at the museum. Part of this project involves the development of a study to gain insight on the success of the program. I will survey museum visitors in the hope of understanding how the Follow Your Art program has affected their overall MIA experience.

The Follow Your Art program is a self-guided tour option at the MIA which seeks to highlight the varying elements of Inuit art. The program involves a personality quiz which allows visitors to discover which art style (Realism, Minimalism, Expressionism, Abstract or Grotesque) appeals to them. With this insight, visitors can follow the different styles throughout the museum, hopefully gaining a deeper understanding of the art in addition to a personal connection with the works. The Follow Your Art program is designed to be thought-provoking and to challenge expectations of Inuit art.

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to work in such a wonderful museum, where I hope to expand my knowledge of museum work and Inuit art. I look forward to meeting you!

 

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My name is Lauren Williams and I will be spending the summer at the MIA as the Collections Management Officer!

As a recent graduate of the Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto I am excited to be working in my chosen field!  I always loved museums from what I could see as a visitor but it wasn’t until I began studying museology that I realized that I wanted to work in collections management. My first foray into the collections field was interning in the Artifacts Department at the Ontario Science Centre last summer.  It was there that I gained experience working with a large variety of objects – from wooden looms to carbon fibre violins.  I am excited for the opportunity to continue to diversify my collections experience and MIA is the perfect place for me to do this! Already I am enjoying learning about the different types of materials used in Inuit art such as stone, bone, ivory, and antler.  I love that sometimes collections work can have lots of similarities to detective work – I am always following clues and researching – and am excited to solve some mysteries in the MIA collection!

 

- Posted by: Lindsay Bontoft, MIA’s Public Programming and Development Coordinator

Visions of History

3 Jun

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As you may know, June is National Aboriginal History Month and as usual MIA is preparing a slew of activities for visitors. This year, we’ve primarily focused on exploring the often-undiscussed tensions created by colonialism that manifest themselves in the art on display here. A special self-guided tour is available throughout June focusing on four specific pieces, and I will be lecturing on National Aboriginal Day (June 21) about this in more detail.

These discussions have seemed more and more urgent at the museum lately. Within the last month, our summer students and docent trainees have been learning about the power dynamics underpinning much of contemporary Inuit art. Meanwhile, the Makivik Corp and NFB have launched a new website tracing the histories of the two most famous forced relocations of Inuit. The story was also further explored recently on the CBC.

So, it was with interest that I opened a new informational poster produced by the Government of Canada and promoted as part of National Aboriginal History Month educational offerings dedicated to “Canadian Arctic Expedition: 1913-1918″ this morning. The poster is a small portion of the text of their expanded webpage about the expedition on the Northern Strategy website.

Throughout the pamphlet there are names and short biographies of Southern explorers and scientists, but no personal identifiers for any Inuit pictured. This portion of the pamphlet features an Inuit woman's ulu but offers no context for why it has been included with the text or who it would have belonged to.

Throughout the poster there are names and short biographies of Southern explorers and scientists, but no personal identifiers for any Inuit pictured. This portion of the poster features an Inuit woman’s ulu but offers no context for why it has been included with the text or who it would have belonged to.

The text emphasizes the contributions of non-Inuit explorers who visited the Arctic over a five year period in two primary fields: scientific discovery and establishing sovereignty for Canada. As a result, the language downplays or ignores important traditional knowledge of local Inuit. For example, the poster explains:

The Expedition discovered five major Arctic islands as well as a number of smaller ones, established the outer edge of the Continental shelf and mapped Arctic coastlines.

I’m quite certain local Inuit were aware of these islands prior to their “discovery” in the twentieth century. Further, the poster insists on the importance of the expedition for establishing Canadian sovereignty and “control” repeatedly, while painting Inuit as helpers at best and props at worst. None of the Inuit pictured are named, though all southern explorers are, and their involvement is described tellingly:

The Canadian Arctic Expedition had a significant impact on the knowledge and understanding of Northern people, particularly the lesser known Copper Inuit. Diamond Jenness’ extensive anthropological studies and collection of artifacts provided great insight into the daily life and culture of Inuit. A large number of Inuit men and women made invaluable contributions to the Canadian Arctic Expedition, acting as guides, seamstresses and cooks, as well as assisting with a number of physical tasks around camp. The relationships established and the knowledge exchanged during the Expedition had lasting impacts on the North and provided a basis for future relations between the Canadian government and Northern peoples.

It seems significant that the anthropologist Diamond Jenness’ studies are noted specifically as expanding southern knowledge of Inuit culture, while the Inuit themselves are relegated to background players. They assist with menial tasks around camp or guide the explorers (presumably to the places they “discovered”) but these “invaluable contributions” serve only to assist with the “real” discoveries made by the explorers and scientists.

National Aboriginal History Month seems like an appropriate time to examine the way we talk about the relationship Canada has with Aboriginal peoples, and this is as good a place to start as any. Thinking critically about historical events is important, especially when their consequences continue to be felt today. If you’re interested in learning more about the complexities around Inuit art specifically, I invite you to come visit the museum this month and explore more. There’s quite a lot to talk about.

- Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Curator

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