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

Volunteer Appreciation: Lauren W.

18 May

The Museum of Inuit Art has an amazing team of over 30 volunteers that offer their time and expertise to support many areas of our operations—public programs, visitor services, website development, collections management, and marketing to name a few. In 2013 our volunteers contributed nearly 4,888 hours to our organization. That is the equivalent of the hours worked by 2.5 full-time staff members in a given year! We are truly grateful for their support.

We have such a fantastic team here at the museum, it is hard to capture all the wonderful people involved but we’ve selected a few of our current and past volunteers in a variety of roles to speak about their experience being a part of the MIA family!


 

Lauren W.

Lauren condition reporting a piece coming to the museum on loan from the Matchbox Gallery.

 

Lauren Williams joined the MIA collection management team during her second year for the University of Toronto’s Master of Museum Studies (MMSt) program. Since her first day at MIA she has become an invaluable addition and helped MIA staff tackle a large and significant collections audit. From works on paper, stone, antler, hide, metal, ivory – Lauren has worked with it all, and shown remarkable care and attention to all of her condition reports and exhibition preparation. MIA could not be more proud to have such a dedicated volunteer and can not wait to see what she accomplishes in the field now that she has graduated from the MMSt program!

Why did you decide to volunteer with the Museum of Inuit Art?

After doing an internship at a large institution I was very interested in seeing how things are done on a much smaller scale.  The Museum of Inuit Art has always been the little-museum-that-could to me.  Despite the small staff they are always on the forefront of museum innovation: from augmented reality to the speaker series Museum ShowoffTO.

Describe your experience so far with MIA

My experience has been very positive so far.  I have had the pleasure of working with a collection of works on paper as well as various sculptures and baskets.  I am learning more and more about Inuit art and culture each time I come in.  The staff are all incredibly knowledgeable and very helpful!

What was the most memorable or rewarding moment that you have had while volunteering with the museum?

I began my experience at the MIA cataloging a series of works on paper by hand.  Many of these drawings had syllabics written on them – I was careful to copy them down as the artist had written them, but as this was my first time encountering syllabics I was doing so blindly.  In the past few weeks, I have been inputting those paper records into a digital catalog.  This time I have been using a chart online to transcribe the syllabics.  After doing this a couple times I was really starting to not only copy but understand the way artist’s names translated.  This was an exciting moment for me as I am always looking to learn something new!

What have you learned from your experience with the museum thus far?

I have learned how invaluable volunteer work can be to smaller museums.  As I said before, I had previously interned at a larger institution and took a lot of things for granted.  I was truly amazed when I learned of the amount of volunteers at the MIA.  Each week I am inspired by all of the other volunteers who dedicate their time to the museum.

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am finishing up the final weeks of my Master of Museum Studies Degree at University of Toronto.  I volunteer at the MIA once a week working on collections management projects.


If you are interested in learning more about our collections management volunteer opportunity at the museum, visit our website. We are always looking for people to join our team!

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

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Belinda P.

12 Apr

The Museum of Inuit Art has an amazing team of over 30 volunteers that offer their time and expertise to support many areas of our operations—public programs, visitor services, website development, collections management, and marketing to name a few. In 2013 our volunteers contributed nearly 4,888 hours to our organization. That is the equivalent of the hours worked by 2.5 full-time staff members in a given year! We are truly grateful for their support. Throughout National Volunteer Appreciation Week will be celebrating the contributions of our amazing volunteer team during 2013.

We have such a fantastic team here at the museum, it is hard to capture all the wonderful people involved but we’ve selected a few of our current and past volunteers in a variety of roles to speak about their experience being a part of the MIA family!


 

Belinda P.

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Belinda Piercy is our longest serving volunteer. She began with us back in 2011 as a front desk volunteer and eventually completed the docent training program. She now gives tours to school groups and the general public on a regular basis. Belinda not only fulfills the requirements of the docent role here at the museum. We view Belinda as a leader amongst our volunteers and she has played an integral part in making our volunteer program bigger and better at MIA! 

Why did you decide to volunteer with the Museum of Inuit Art?

As a philosophy graduate student who writes about art and beauty, the Museum sounded like the perfect fit when I decided to get out into the community and start volunteering. It was!

Describe your experience so far with MIA.

My experience at MIA has been a continual process of falling in love with different artworks and artists, and the vision of the Museum itself. I started off as a front desk representative and took the opportunity to learn more about the Museum’s collection by becoming a docent. Deciding to get more involved has always rewarded me with a richer appreciation for the complexities and achievements of the works on display.

What was the most memorable or rewarding moment that you have had while volunteering with the museum?

I have had many memorable moments with both visitors and artworks. A favourite visitor encounter was the day I encouraged a woman who thought she knew our collection well to come in and take a look at a visiting exhibition. We spent the next half hour engaged in a lively exploration of different works and the reflections on life they gave rise to. One of my favourite moments with an artwork was discovering the faint face on a minimalist sculpture of a bird by George Tataniq.  The small incised eyes are so light you need to look closely to see them and for a long time I brushed by the work too quickly to notice. As soon as I saw the under stated yet compelling personality added by that feature, I fell in love.

What have you learned from your experience with the museum thus far?

I have learned that much like getting to know a person, it takes time hanging out with artworks to get to see their different sides, and listen to the different questions they might ask. I don’t always know how to answer those questions, but I have really appreciated the opportunity the Museum has given me to return to things I didn’t notice at first and learn to see them again in new ways.

What are you doing now?

I am still a graduate student, working on my PhD in philosophy at the University of Toronto. I hope to finish that within the next year, and then my life will change. I hope volunteering at the Museum will still be a part of it, I know there is much more for me to discover here.


 

If you are interested in learning more about our docent training program, visit our website. We are always looking for people to join our team!

-Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Lada S.

11 Apr

The Museum of Inuit Art has an amazing team of over 30 volunteers that offer their time and expertise to support many areas of our operations—public programs, visitor services, website development, collections management, and marketing to name a few. In 2013 our volunteers contributed nearly 4,888 hours to our organization. That is the equivalent of the hours worked by 2.5 full-time staff members in a given year! We are truly grateful for their support. Throughout National Volunteer Appreciation Week will be celebrating the contributions of our amazing volunteer team during 2013.

We have such a fantastic team here at the museum, it is hard to capture all the wonderful people involved but we’ve selected a few of our current and past volunteers in a variety of roles to speak about their experience being a part of the MIA family!


Lada S.

LadaLada Skender-Micic started volunteering with us 2012 as a front desk volunteer. She has since completed the docent training program here at the museum and now gives tours to the public and school groups on a regular basis. Lada brings an undeniable passion to the museum; anyone that has taken a tour by her can attest to this!

Here is how Lada describes her experience with the museum:

In May 2012, I first came to The Museum of Inuit Art as a visitor and after I had been enchanted straightaway, I decided to start volunteering. I simply felt that I have to be here in the museum, cherishing the art-works that provoke questions.

As my background is in Dramatic Arts, it was natural to start searching the stories behind the art-pieces, not only praising visual impressions. Unveiling the artists’ personal needs to create such vibrant, vivid and enduring pieces, I keep finding  so profound and inspiring.

I feel that my mission is to spread the word that Inuit Art is like a good deed – benevolent, unique and eternal.


If you are interested in learning more about our docent training program, visit our website. We are always looking for people to join our team!

-Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Lily J.

11 Apr

The Museum of Inuit Art has an amazing team of over 30 volunteers that offer their time and expertise to support many areas of our operations—public programs, visitor services, website development, collections management, and marketing to name a few. In 2013 our volunteers contributed nearly 4,888 hours to our organization. That is the equivalent of the hours worked by 2.5 full-time staff members in a given year! We are truly grateful for their support. Throughout National Volunteer Appreciation Week will be celebrating the contributions of our amazing volunteer team during 2013.

We have such a fantastic team here at the museum, it is hard to capture all the wonderful people involved but we’ve selected a few of our current and past volunteers in a variety of roles to speak about their experience being a part of the MIA family!


 

 Lily J.

 Lily2

Lily Jackson joined the MIA collection management team following her move to Toronto and acceptance into the University of Toronto’s Masters of Museum Studies program (MMSt). Since her first day at MIA she has become an invaluable addition and helped MIA staff tackle a large and significant collections audit. From works on paper, stone, antler, hide, metal, ivory – Lily has worked with it all, and shown remarkable care and attention to all of her condition reports and exhibition preparation. And she’s had some pretty fantastic #museumselfie moments along the way. MIA could not be more proud to have such a dedicated volunteer.

Why did you decide to volunteer with the Museum of Inuit Art?

I had moved to Toronto to pursue a Master’s degree in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto, and wanted to ground my classroom-based learning in real-world museum experience. Some of the MIA staff members are graduates of the same degree program, which presented an opportunity to learn from emerging museum professionals who understood what I was learning. Plus, I have always loved Inuit art, and I enjoy working in smaller-sized museums. For all these reasons, MIA seemed like a great fit.

Describe your experience so far with MIA

My experience at MIA has centered on all aspects of collections management work. I have spent much of my time accessioning and cataloguing a large collection of drawings from Pangnirtung, Nunavut. I also worked alongside a team of MIA staff and volunteers to ensure that all of the objects on display in the museum’s galleries were unaffected by an unexpected water leak. Recently, I’ve been familiarizing myself with MIA’s online database, and have begun making electronic records for the Pangnirtung drawings. Finally, I assist with extra projects as needed, such as unpacking boxes of objects on loan for the upcoming SKQ exhibition.

What was the most memorable or rewarding moment that you have had while volunteering with the museum?

One of the most memorable and rewarding experiences I have had at the museum was participating in the installation of Abraham Ruben’s “Ancient Memories” and Bart Hanna’s “Migration”. These two large and complex sculptures were installed in MIA’s pedestal gallery in one day, which required the patience and collaboration of several staff members, professional art movers, and myself. I find it very rewarding to help objects move from being tightly secured inside large boxes with reams of acid-free packaging to being on display in the light of the gallery for people to see. This process was made all the more rewarding by the whole team’s cooperation, which ultimately meant that the pieces were unpacked and put on display safely.

What have you learned from your experience with the museum thus far?

I could write a small encyclopedic series of what I have learned at MIA. But, to keep it brief: working with all manner of Inuit art – particularly the Pangnirtung drawings – has broadened my conception of Inuit art, and has enhanced my love of it. I have also learned about many challenges and opportunities of collections management, including issues surrounding collections software, storage, and conservation. Finally, my time at MIA has increased my awareness of how everything – and everyone – in museums is interconnected; teamwork and communication skills are vital!

What are you doing now?

I continue to volunteer at MIA once per week. I am nearly finished the first year of my Museum Studies program, and am about to start a summer internship in fundraising and development at a national arts organization based in Toronto.


 

If you are interested in learning more about our collections management volunteer opportunity at the museum, visit our website. We are always looking for people to join our team!

- Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Christina J.

10 Apr

The Museum of Inuit Art has an amazing team of over 30 volunteers that offer their time and expertise to support many areas of our operations—public programs, visitor services, website development, collections management, and marketing to name a few. In 2013 our volunteers contributed nearly 4,888 hours to our organization. That is the equivalent of the hours worked by 2.5 full-time staff members in a given year! We are truly grateful for their support. Throughout National Volunteer Appreciation Week will be celebrating the contributions of our amazing volunteer team during 2013.

We have such a fantastic team here at the museum, it is hard to capture all the wonderful people involved but we’ve selected a few of our current and past volunteers in a variety of roles to speak about their experience being a part of the MIA family!


 

 Christina J.

Christina Christina today

Pictured above are photos of Christina during her time at MIA and during her time in Cuzco, Peru this past summer.

Christina Johnson began volunteering with us in September 2012 as a Front Desk volunteer. Throughout the eight months that she volunteered at MIA she contributed over 130 hours of service to our institution, not only on our front desk but with our March Break programming. While Christina was with us, she illustrated a great passion for the study of different cultures, particularly through artifacts. She often asked insightful questions related to collections management and exhibition development at our museum and we are pleased to see her pursuing a career in the cultural heritage field.

Why did you decide to volunteer with the Museum of Inuit Art?

I studied Anthropology in Undergrad, and when I moved to Toronto I knew I wanted to get museum experience in an institution that was related to native cultures, and their artifacts. I thought the Museum of Inuit Art would be a perfect fit, and allow me to experience many different parts of museum life.

Describe your experience during your time with MIA.

Although I was only with the museum for a short time my time there allowed me to gain experience and also to become comfortable in the museum setting, which helped me cement my plan to go into Museum studies. MIA provided the perfect setting to gain practical and knowledge based experience.

What was the most memorable or rewarding moment that you had while volunteering with the museum?

One of my most memorable experiences while volunteering was participating in an educational program, during spring break, which taught children about the differences in grocery prices between Toronto and the Arctic. It was great to be able to interact with children and teach them something they had never thought about, while hopefully also igniting their interest in Inuit culture.

What have you learned from your experience with the museum?

During my time at the museum I learned a lot about the importance of customer service, and interacting with visitors, to enhance their experience and hopefully get them to come back. I also learned about Inuit art and culture, which was something I unfortunately, knew nothing about when I started.

What are you doing now?

Currently I am a Graduate student at the University of Florida, studying Museum Studies, with a concentration in Anthropology.

- Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Kyle M.

9 Apr

The Museum of Inuit Art has an amazing team of over 30 volunteers that offer their time and expertise to support many areas of our operations—public programs, visitor services, website development, collections management, and marketing to name a few. In 2013 our volunteers contributed nearly 4,888 hours to our organization. That is the equivalent of the hours worked by 2.5 full-time staff members in a given year! We are truly grateful for their support. Throughout National Volunteer Appreciation Week will be celebrating the contributions of our amazing volunteer team during 2013.

We have such a fantastic team here at the museum, it is hard to capture all the wonderful people involved but we’ve selected a few of our current and past volunteers in a variety of roles to speak about their experience being a part of the MIA family!


Kyle M.

Kyle M.

Kyle Miller began volunteering with us in  January 2013 as a Front Desk volunteer after visiting our museum and becoming a member. Kyle is a very dedicated and reliable volunteer at MIA, and he consistently surpasses the requirements of his role.  Throughout the year that he has been with volunteering with us, Kyle has developed an updated, mobile-compatible website for the museum through WordPress which has received positive feedback. While Kyle no longer volunteers on the front desk, he continues to update our website on a weekly basis with new information on upcoming events and exhibitions. We look forward to continuing to work with Kyle and are sure we will see him at future members’ events!

Why did you decide to volunteer with the Museum of Inuit Art?

A few years ago, I won a free trip to Yellowknife, and while I was there I bought a miniature stonecut print by Peter Aliknak. When I returned to Toronto, I wanted to learn more about it, so I paid the MIA a visit. In one of the strangest coincidences of my life, MIA actually had the original stone print block on temporary display when I visited. I knew I had to learn more.

Describe your experience so far with MIA.

I’ve enjoyed working at the front desk, meeting many of my fellow volunteers and of course many hundreds of visitors. I quickly fell into the role of helping to upgrade and maintain the MIA website, something I’m good at and enjoy doing. And I’ve really enjoyed being a part of MIA’s volunteer program, which is rewarding and a lot of fun.

What was the most memorable or rewarding moment that you have had while volunteering with the museum?

I’ve recently enjoyed many of the conversations I’ve had with visitors about Memories: An Ancient Past, an enormous and monumental work by Abraham Anghik Ruben in the MIA lobby. It draws people in and it’s a great way to share some of the history and mythology underlying Inuit art.

What have you learned from your experience with the museum thus far?

My knowledge of Inuit art, history, and culture is so much greater now than when I started. That’s why I started volunteering – to learn more – and it really has worked out.

What are you doing now? 

I’m halfway through an Urban Planning graduate degree.


 

If you are interested in learning how you can lend your expertise to the museum like Kyle has with our website development, visit our website and take a look for our project-based volunteer opportunities. We are always looking for people to join our team! 

- Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator


 

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