National Volunteer Appreciation Week: Frederico O.

7 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!


 

Frederico O.

Frederico now 2

Frederico Oliveira began volunteering with us in 2011 on our front desk. Throughout the two years that he volunteered with the museum, Frederico made the most of his volunteer experience, taking on additional roles as a docent and a member of our Volunteer Committee. During his time at MIA he also assisted at special events, such as the MIA Gallery’s Collectors Night events. He would help with the set-up of these events, welcome event attendees, and take photographs throughout the evening. Frederico also had the opportunity to interact with Inuit artists who came to the Museum to explain their artwork and process to the general public. Frederico left us at the end of 2012 to go teach at Lakehead University. That being said, he always keeps in touch and has come back to volunteer a few days since then. We are very proud of Frederico’s accomplishments and we are happy that he continues to be a part of the MIA family!

Here is how Frederico describes her experience with the museum:

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

Because I work with Aboriginal peoples in Brazil, First Nations in Canada and would like know better about the Inuit.

Describe your experience during your time with MIA.

I started as a front desk assistant, greeting the visitors, making small sales and getting to know more about the Inuit history and culture. When I knew about the docent program, I was really excited, because I could understand more about the processes and techniques of art production, the different regions of the Arctic and its different themes. So, I became a docent and one of the volunteer committee coordinators because I also wanted to engage the visitors and be part of the educational program.

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

I can’t recall one particular moment, but I really enjoyed giving tours to the kids, especially the moment when I had to explain the spiritual world, talking the connection between the shaman and spirits of the animals, Sedna and how this relationships are so important for the Inuit.

What have you learned from your experience with the museum?

That Aboriginal peoples in Canada need spaces like the Museum of Inuit Art to help educate the general public and eliminate prejudice and many forms of misunderstanding about their culture in the past and in the present.

What are you doing now?

I am assistant professor of the Department of Anthropology at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.

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

National Volunteer Appreciation Week: Laura A.

7 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 have 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!


Laura A.

Laura

Laura Arngna’naaq began volunteering with us in August 2013 on our front desk. Throughout the sixty-eight hours of service she gave to the museum, Laura was a strong advocate of the museum and promoted our membership program both onsite and offsite. This resulted in her receiving the award for recruiting the most new members during our 2013 membership drive. Laura continues to be involved with the museum as a MIA member and as she helps us build a partnership with the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada.

Here is how Laura describes her experience with the museum:

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

I had been to the Museum of Inuit Art once before with my family and felt that the exhibit was a beautiful and diverse collection of Inuit art.   Because of this when I finished my masters degree and had some free time I thought the museum would be a perfect opportunity to get to know more about Inuit art and enjoy the collection.

Describe your experience during your time with MIA.

Volunteering with Museum was a very rewarding experience.  Although I did see a number of collectors visit the Museum, there were a number of visitors that were genuinely curious about Inuit Art and Culture, so answering their questions and explaining a bit about my heritage was a fun and rewarding experience.

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

I would say my most memorable moment that I had while volunteering at the museum was just chatting with the Museum Curator and staff about Inuit art and learning so much just from having a conversation with the passionate and knowledgable staff at the Museum.

What have you learned from your experience with the museum?

Personally, I learned a lot about Inuit art.  Although my grandmother was a print artist herself (and her sewing was an art form in itself! She made the amouti I am wearing the picture) I felt that there was a lot more to learn.  From volunteering I learned a lot about the distinct regional differences in style and art form behind art as well as some of the historical motifs behind it.

What are you doing now?

I am currently working as a Junior Corporate Accountant at Brookfield Office properties and in my spare time volunteering for the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada and am a Board member of the Native Woman’s Resource Centre of Toronto.

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

 

How A “Rat-Infested Ghost Ship” Intersects With Our Collection: Adventures in Collections Research

18 Feb

As you may have guessed, the collections audit we’ve talked about previously has been an interesting experience. Sometimes, it can be fairly routine work: measure here, double-check for accuracy, update the record, and repeat. Sometimes, though, the craziest things can happen. Case in point: researching the subject of a particular sculpture, 2010.3.7.

"Self-portrait, my visit to the cruise ship Lybov Orlova" by Mattiusi Iyaituk (2009), Stone, antler. MIA 2010.3.7, acquired through the Sprott Acquisition Fund

“Self-portrait, my visit to the cruise ship Lyubov Orlova” by Mattiusi Iyaituk (2009), Stone, antler. MIA 2010.3.7, acquired through the Sprott Acquisition Fund

We have a piece in our collection titled “Self-portrait, my visit to the cruise ship Lyubov Orlova” by Mattiusi Iyaituk from 2009. I’ve always thought it was a very nice piece but had honestly never given the subject much more thought than “I’d like to ask Mattiusi about visiting the ship.” Cruises through the Arctic are fairly common; though a very personal piece, the event itself seemed fairly normal. The ship itself, however, turns out to have had a far more interesting life.

If you follow certain news outlets or really enjoy bizarre, sensational stories, you may have heard speculation about a ghost cruise ship full of cannibalistic rats threatening to crash into the UK late last month. I actually clicked on a link about the ship from Discovery News on my Twitter feed and was shocked to see the name of the ship: the Lyubov Orlova.

It turns out, the ship was seized in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 2010, the year we acquired the piece. The ship was then sold for scrap, but as it was being towed the line snapped and the boat floated away to sea. Early last year, Transport Canada managed to regain control of the ship but let it loose again when it threatened the safety of the tow boat. Everyone assumed the boat sunk somewhere in the North Atlantic until early this year, when a scrap hunter speculated to the Independent that the ship was still floating. In the ensuing media storm, experts came forward to say that in reality, it probably sunk. That didn’t stop someone from creating a fake Twitter account for the ship, which seems to have been sadly abandoned earlier this month just like the ship itself.

Whether or not the ship is still drifting across the Atlantic or is somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, it’s still an interesting part of the object’s file and certainly the only time I’ve ever been able to reference “cannibal rats” in a collections record. Luckily for us and our visitors, the sculpture is going to be installed on Thursday for everyone to admire.

- Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Curator

Meet Our Collections Team! Introducing Lily J.

29 Sep

IMG_4931

Hi everyone!
I’m thrilled to be a brand-new addition to the team here at MIA while the museum undertakes a collections audit – a lengthy, intensive, but critical process that ensures everything is a collection is in order (spoiler: it’s usually not).

As a result of changing technologies, changing people, and changing practices, the ways in which a museum keeps track of it’s collection can change drastically over time. Collections audits are regular procedures undertaken to ensure that, despite these changes, a museum can still uphold it’s mission, mandate and vision.

I’ve been a big fan of collections work ever since my somewhat non-traditional entrance into the museum profession during my undergraduate degree. An Environmental Geography student, I was enrolled in my university’s Co-op education program, looking for typical environmental work (think environmental monitoring, GIS). In late spring, worried I would spend the summer with no job at all, I took a job as a Curatorial Assistant working with the collection and exhibition at the University of Victoria Art Collections. I loved everything about it, from the work (centering around another collections audit but also involving curation), exhibition design and installation, to interacting with artists. My tasks were creative, stimulating, and I believed deeply in the importance of it all. Thanks to that experience I went on to work as a Summer Museum Interpreter at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, and with my Environmental Geography degree in hand I began an education in the Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto this summer.

Collections work is meaningful for everyone who interacts with a museum: visitors, artists, staff, researchers, you name it! The objects carry a multiplicity of stories, meanings, and geographies. To be entrusted with working directly with them is immediately inspiring and endlessly fascinating. The collections at MIA are, for me, are particularly important because they are voices from one of the most rapidly changing places on the planet. Furthermore they are cared for and presented by a small institution with a small staff, and it’s often these places that mean the most for particular communities. I was very fortunate to visit the Canadian Arctic during a youth-based research voyage studying climate change and art. The collections at MIA remind me of that time and of that place, and also add new layers to that experience. For these reasons and so many more I am very much looking forward to my time at MIA!

- Posted by: Lily Jackson, MIA’s Collections Management Volunteer

Meet Our Collections Team! Introducing Leah C.

24 Sep
Leah C., MIA Collections Management Volunteer, examines a recently donated drawing for the museums permanent collection.

Leah C., MIA’s Collections Management Volunteer, examines a recently donated drawing for the museums permanent collection.

Continuing our series on our collections audit the museum is undertaking, this week features guest posts from members of the collections team. 

If you are the kind of person who sits down now and then to spend hours updating your iTunes playlist, making sure you have exactly the right album art, band name spelling and track listings for your ultimate playlist then you might have some idea of the what it takes to undertake a collections audit. Each piece in a museum’s collections must be documented and accounted for and this fall I am going to be joining the MIA team as they undertake this project.

So how did I come to join this team and what drew me to museum work in the first place? I spent my formative years visiting every living history museum, gallery and road side historic plaques from Kingston to St. Johns with my family. Those road trips gave me my first taste of what museums had to offer and my interest in the field grew until I had the opportunity in high school to suit up in the blisteringly hot woolly uniform of a British artillery soldier and become a historical interpreter at Fort Henry. Since then I have had the chance to work with the Peterborough Museum and Archives and this past summer I completed an internship in the CBC’s Libraries and Archives working closely with their still photographs collection.

I feel that interacting with a museum artifact is an experience that is completely unique to these kinds of institutions. Working in collections management gives me the chance to do hands-on work with the artifacts that shape each museum visit.  As you might have guessed the collection you see displayed at a museum is only a fraction of what that museum holds and getting the chance to peek behind the curtain to see what else might be waiting in quiet storage rooms and vaults is very exciting to me.  There is something special about getting to know each and every piece, its history and its place in our collection and I can’t wait to find out more as this project moves forward.

So far one of my favourite pieces to accession and catalogue are these two drawings:

IMG_4721

Germaine Arnaktauyok (1946-), “Untitled” (Drum Dancer) c. 1973, Iglulik, paper and felt tip marker, MIA Collection Gift of Mary and James Robert Moorehead.

IMG_4722

Germaine Arnaktauyok (1946-), “Untitled” (A Woman With A Bucket of Water) c. 1973, Iglulik, paper and felt tip marker, MIA Collection Gift of Mary and James Robert Moorehead.

The contrast between the black ink and white paper is really striking, and I can’t stop focusing in on the cross hatch technique the artist used. I hope to come across more by this artist as the project continues!

- Posted by: Leah Cox., MIA’s Collections Management Volunteer

Nancy Drew and the Case of New Collections Management

5 Sep
Unknown artist, "Untitled" (Janus Head), whalebone is a recently donated piece into the permanent collection was photographed as part of the accessioning process during the collections audit.

Artist Unknown, “Untitled” (Janus Head), (1974), whalebone is a recently donated piece that is being entered into the permanent collection during the collections audit.

For the past few months visitors to the Harbourfront have had to tackle a lot of construction taking place on Queens Quay as part of the Waterfront revitalization project. Additionally, the museum has been undergoing some pretty major changes of our own. In previous posts we introduced new layouts for our permanent collection, asked for your input for what sorts of information should be included in our next batch of interpretive texts and installed a new exhibition. While we have been a little quiet on the blog side of things, we have been typing up a storm inputting all your feedback into our panels (which are being printed at this very moment!).

Alongside these new panels we are also creating a brand new labeling system for the individual objects you can see in both our special exhibitions and permanent collections. We’re going to dedicate a separate blog to introduce our new designs and how we have been playing with lots of different looks, but you can take a quick peek here for a sense of how your questions inspired our new look.

Design sample of future new MIA museum object labels

Design sample of future new MIA museum object labels.

You might have noticed that in the above design sample, the accession number has been left unfilled. Part of the process of creating new labels has come out of another important project we have initiated: completing a full collections audit.

And what is a collections audit you ask?
Under the SPECTRUM definition, a collections audit is:

The examination of objects or object information, in order to verify their location, authenticity, accuracy and relationships… The organisation must have a policy covering the auditing of the collections and related information. Refer to Policies and Legal Context chapter for general guidance on collections management policies.

The procedure for managing and documenting audits must:

  • Ensure that the organisation maintains, manages and documents a regular review of the objects in its collections and the information relating to them;

  • Ensure that the audit of objects is based on the physical presence of the objects;

  • Ensure that all relevant object-related documentation is updated as required in a timely manner;

  • Ensure that remedial action is taken as required, following discovery of missing objects, wrongly or inadequately documented objects, or undocumented objects;

  • Ensure that, wherever possible, inventory checks are conducted or witnessed by a person not responsible for their custody or record-keeping

As part of best practices, it can refer to a small section of the collection, or if you’re keeners like we are, the ENTIRE collection!

As we went through the permanent collections cases we noticed that there were some inconsistencies, such as files that weren’t in the proper locations or objects that did not have multiple photographs to show the piece at different angles. These types of errors come pretty standard across museums, and despite the fields limited resources you will always be able to find that one passionate detective who pulls a Nancy Drew in search of runaway documentation. This kind of project has been the source of  many a internship and looking at past presentations from networking events like Museums Showoff TO you can learn more about how other institutions solved their mini museum mysteries.

This fall we will also be putting together a team of  collections interns, who will be documenting what types of pieces they will be working with, how they are investigating the collections, and what kinds of documents they are looking for. So stay tuned to meet the team and learn more about some of the behind the scenes moments that make up a part of an objects life inside the museum!

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

We Hear You!

29 Jul

In my last post, I explained that for the last several weeks we have been flying panel-less in the museum as we overhaul our permanent and special exhibition spaces. It’s been very interesting to have the art on display with little to no information around it. We asked our visitors for their reactions and to let us know what content they would like to see in our interpretive panels when they are reinstalled. We just tallied the results (thanks, Sofia!) and they were definitely enlightening. I want to take a few moments to talk about some of the most recurring themes and how we’re addressing them.

A suggestion box in the museum

One of our suggestion boxes inside the museum

1. Questions about materials were the most prevalent (behind people very nicely expressing enjoying the museum). This ranged from general questions, like “What materials are used?” to the very popular “What type of stone is used?”. Each of our individual object labels include the medium of the work, but they’re fairly general (like “stone” or “ivory”). A number of our new changes will actually help to answer these questions more fully. For example, we just installed a narwhal tusk as an interactive, touchable element to the permanent exhibition so visitors can get a better sense of what the material is actually like. Additionally, we will be addressing this in the interpretive panels more clearly, especially in our regional diversity case. Working with the local land claim governments and co-operatives, we’re compiling quarry maps to show where major stone deposits are located – so look for that soon.

Installing the narwhal tusk in the museum

Technician Lucy and I installing the narwhal tusk interactive

2. Emphasis on diversity. A number of visitors suggested changes that relate to diversity, such as wanting different kinds of artwork displayed (like more prints or beadwork) or wanting to see more about regional diversity. This is one of our top goals (which is really another post for another time): we are retooling all of our individual object labels to get to these questions more clearly. I am also the most excited to see us install a section in our regional diversity cases for art from Nunatsiavut (more on that later, too). There are some practical limits, though, that we have to contend with. Light sensitive materials, like prints and beads, can only be placed in certain parts of the museum so we’re working on more creative solutions to this as well.

3. Questions about subject matter and artistic intention. Another frequent request was for information directly related to Inuit culture and beliefs and how they relate to the artwork and/or artistic intention. We’re working on a longer-term solution to this, as well as some short-term ones. One thing we’re very aware of is that we’re not an anthropological museum, but an art museum and so a major focus of the renovation has been to try to create opportunities for the art to be considered as artwork. That said, cultural context is hugely important and so is integrating the artists’ voices into the displays. Look for many more direct quotes next to works, or even videos and audio recordings for select works.

4. Accessibility concerns. You’ve told us that our existing labels are too hard to read, and we agree. That’s why we’re gradually rolling out all new ones that will be larger and have higher contrast so no one needs to strain to read the information.

There’s still time to send us your input on what you’d like to see addressed in our exhibition spaces, so please let us know!

-Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Curator

 

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