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Something Different, Something New: The Making of ‘Unikkaaqtuat’

23 Jul

It’s hard to believe I only arrived at the museum two months ago, and that my internship is almost over. Everyone here has made me feel so welcome; it’s made my internship just fly by. So much has happened in that short period of time that it’s hard to fit everything into just a few paragraphs. To cover some of the main points, while I’ve been here I’ve gotten to apply everything I learnt in school to actual situations. I’ve had the opportunity to catalogue and condition report objects, to transport object, and to pack and store objects – all things I’ve learnt theoretically but seldom in practice. I have gotten to grow, to learn, and to be confident in my opinions and ideas.

rolling up works on paper for return

Myself and the MIA Collections Manager preparing some works on paper to be returned.

Being able to state my opinions and ideas with confidence is the most important part of this internship for me, and it is what helped make our newest exhibition Unikkaaqtuat: Inuit Creation Stories a reality. When I first started I was asked, somewhat in passing, to think about what a new exhibition could be. There were a few options, but nothing stood out to me except finding a way to explore Inuit myths and legends. I did not know much, but I was eager to learn more.  That’s how I began the research for this exhibition – by reading a wide variety of myths and legends, and I started with Inhabit Media’s “Unikkaaqtuat: An Introduction to Inuit Myths and Legends.” As soon as the idea solidified I emailed Inhabit Media, and got great feedback from their organization. I got to choose some of my favourite stories, and with MIA’s Collections Manager I got to look through the museum collection to find objects to accompany those stories. Together Lauren and I narrowed down our list, and chose objects to best reflect the stories. From that point on it became a matter of organization. Which stories would go beside each other? Which objects look best when paired together? What can we do to create the best impact?

We planned this exhibition to be as family-friendly as possible, to add colour, lower plinths, and create interactive components to help entice parents to bring their children to the museum. Objects and text panels were placed lower on the wall to help children interact with the objects. We’ve even added a LEGENDary Theatre so visitors can use puppets to act out the stories they’ve read in the exhibit or share their own stories.

There are five different stories represented in the case, each accompanied by art from the MIA permanent collection.

There are five different stories represented in the case, each accompanied by art from the MIA permanent collection.

As the exhibition planning and execution continued to progressed, it became obvious to me that this would become an exhibition with a selection of some of my favourite stories, and objects. From light and humorous to dark and frightening, this exhibition explores different stories of how things came into existence.

Following the opening more programming, tours, and art activities will connect with the show and I hope you have a chance to see it this summer.

– Posted by Taylor M., MIA’s Collections Intern

‘Nuliajuk’ Comes to MIA

20 Nov
IMG_9471

MIA Collections Manager Lauren Williams receives a wall hanging from Jacob Keanik, President/Chair of the Gjoa Haven Heritage Society

Last week the museum had a group of special guests visit the museum. And they came a loooong way for a tour!

Despite a few flight delays and a battle through Toronto traffic, Obrian Kydd from the Nunavut Economic Developers Association and Jacob Keanik, the President/Chair of the Nattilik Heritage Society  made the trip from Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven) to MIA as one of their Toronto stops.

Touring through the museum exhibitions, MIA staff introduced our ‘Follow Your Art’  program – used to help identify the different styles seen in Inuit Art-  and of course we wanted to showcase all the unique and talented artists whose works are represented in the museum. It was such a real thrill to see Obrian and Jacob recognize pieces their friends had made and hear some of the stories behind the sculptures.

After an exciting brain storming session about future programming and a good chuckle about the Franklin Expedition discovery/the importance of oral history MIA staff were speechless when we were presented with a beautiful wall hanging made by Helen Kaloon!

Helen Wallhanging

“Nuliayok” (2013) by Helen Kaloon (1959- ) Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven), duffle and embroidery thread, MIA Collection.

This duffle wall hanging shows a scene from the story of Nuliajuk, who many of our visitors may also know as ‘Sedna’. Although there are different variations to the story, the main elements are consistent across story tellers and Nuliajuk is always credited as being the creator of the sea-life found in the Arctic. Depending on who is telling the story, some people will describe how Nuliajuk tried to flee her husband by clinging to the side of  her father’s boat during a rescue attempt while another version describes Nuliajuk swimming into the Arctic ocean in an attempt to catch up to her parents who have abandoned her. In both accounts, to release Nuliajuk from the boat her fingers are cut off. Unable to hold onto the boat any longer,  she sinks into the ocean where her severed fingers transform into the sea animals who now inhabit the Arctic ocean.

We hope Helen’s ‘Nuliajuk’ wall hanging likes her view of Lake Ontario, we’ll certainly enjoy having her as an artist ambassador for the Kitikmeot Region here at the museum.

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

 

Where’s All The Information?

25 Jun
Updated Museum Display

Updated Museum Display

If you’ve been to the museum or visited our website recently, you will probably have noticed that we’ve been making a lot of changes. First, we upgraded our website with the help of our wonderful volunteer Kyle; then, we initiated an upgrade of our permanent exhibitions. This is a long process that was, quite honestly, long overdue: in the six years that we’ve been open, our permanent exhibitions have stayed largely static: we’ve added and removed works, we’ve added and removed interpretive information, but the bulk of the layout, objects and information remained the same.

At the same time, we have learned quite a lot about our visitors thanks to visitor evaluation, six years of programming and lots of exhibitions. So, using that information we’ve undertaken a total overhaul of our permanent exhibition spaces. We’ve re-opened our newly renovated exhibitions and I’ll be explaining elements of our decision-making process over the next few weeks. But if you do visit, you may notice that one element of our exhibitions is conspicuously absent: our interpretive information panels.

Museum Exhibitions

Where are all the panels?

That’s not an accident and it’s not permanent. We’ve decided to keep the interpretive panels off the wall for a short period of time to get your input before we finalize what will be on the wall. I have a lot of things I can say about our collection, but I want the chance to know what exactly you want to know. Do you want to know information about the subject matter? About the materials? About the process of art making? About the Arctic environments? The possibilities are endless.

So now is your chance to have your voice heard and incorporated into our permanent collections! We have comment boxes for this input inside the museum, or you can send us an email/leave a comment/etc. So, if you’ve been wondering where all of the contextual information it, it’s coming – but only with your help!

Posted by: Alysa Procida, Curator

Worldwide Knit in Public Day!

5 Jun

IMG_3376   MIA front lobby podium covered in crochet hexagons to celebration of Worldwide Knit in Public Day.

June is a pretty big month here at MIA. This coming Saturday we will officially be reopening our doors to welcome in brand new exhibitions featuring even more examples of art styles, materials, and themes. We’ll also be celebrating National Aboriginal History Month with fun games and prizes AND we’ve just launched another community based project with local Toronto knitting groups (including the Bissell Bombers) as part of  World Wide Knit in Public Day!

For those unfamiliar with WWKiP Day, it all began back in 2005 when Danielle Landes gathered together a group of knitters. Rather than perform this traditionally solitary practice alone, they created an opportunity to spend some time together and really get to know their neighbors. That desire for human interaction and creative outlet inspired others to join and over the following years a simple day of knitting has turned into a global public art movement.

This Saturday and Sunday, MIA will be hosting knit inspired programming in our newly renovated space. From 12-4 visitors can join our Arts Assistants who will be giving demonstrations on the several different methods of pom pom making and how to create a bracelet with needle-less knitting techniques.

Special community exhibition case be prepared for visitor contributions as a part of Worldwide Knit in Public Day celebrations.

All of these yarn creations can be tokens of a fun day spent knitting out in public, or you can have them displayed in our special exhibition area. For the entire month of June, MIA has dedicated a public curated space to showcase the unique talent within the community. Those who wish to participate by bringing supplies and taking part of our Knit in Public activities receive FREE admission.

Hope to see all you crafters this weekend!

– Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

MIA’s AR FAQ (and a bunch of other letters) explained

17 Jul

In my past AR blog post I wrote about how other museums were using AR (augmented realty), and showed you a few clips of the crazy things people have been creating with this type of technology. But I have yet to explain how MIA will be taking this brand new technology and giving our exhibits a bit of a twist. Today’s blog is all about how MIA has envisioned our first steps into this augmented world…

The MIA’s mandate is concerned with both preserving the objects we hold in public trust and educating that public about the culture and people those objects came from. And the public we serve is not necessarily limited to only those visitors who can physically enter our space, we have also reached out to an online public through our social media platforms.

Supplementing traditional museum practices with new technology has allowed us to both reach a larger audience and expand points of access that people can approach the collection from. While not everyone currently owns a smartphone and therefore won’t be able to take advantage of the AR we have running now, smartphones are becoming more and more popular as mobile companies create increasingly affordable data plans and the price of the phones themselves decrease. It’s not hard to image that in the future smartphones (or something even more high tech) will become the mobile standard.

Incorporating AR into our exhibits is not about being flashy and following trends. We’re really dedicated to offering more options on how to view and interact with our collection. All the different points of access MIA has available allows for the visitor to create their own experiences and connect with the collection on a more personal level. Just as some people might not want to read text panels, some people might not want to wave their phone over an entire collection – but the choice is there to be made.

Our current AR channel for the MIA’s latest exhibition Christian Morrisseau: New Directions 2010-2012 includes additional paintings, audio interviews of the artist, and images of his working process. And all smartphone uses have to do is follow these simple steps:

  1. Through your smartphone market place, download the free Junaio Augmented Reality application
  2. Open the app and scan this special QR code
  3. Select the channel MIA Christian Morrisseau New Directions Exhibit
  4. Slowly wave your phone across various Christian Morrisseau paintings to reveal extra content

Ta da!

Curious to see what else you can find hidden in the digital relm?
You can checkout the Christian Morrisseau: New Directions 2010-2012 exhibition on now in our new Aboriginal Voices Gallery.

– posted by Brittany Holliss, MIA Visitor Services Officer

New Gallery, New Installation!

8 Jul

Getting our new Aboriginal Voices Gallery set up for a new exhibition!

Exciting exhibition news! This week marks the beginning of both a new gallery AND a new installation at MIA!

In a few days we will officially be opening Christian Morrisseau: New Directions 2010-2012 in our new Aboriginal Voices Gallery, but in the meantime we thought it would be pretty cool to show you how we’re setting everything up.

Some of our “Tweet Peeks”. Can you guess what some of these images are?

In case you missed our Tweets and Facebook updates, the first step in our installation process was to tease you all with photos. We even made up a game where we show you a close up image of one of Christian Morrisseau’s paintings and have you guess what kind of woodlands creature it might be. A few of you got the right answers, but now it’s time to more or less officially reveal exactly what we’ll be exhibiting.

Our latest installation features the work of Woodlands artist Christian Morrisseau and represents an important moment in his artistic career. As the son of legendary painter Norval Morrisseau, Christian was introduced to painting by prepping the background scenes for his father. Years later, his contribution to the Woodlands School comes from not only continuing his father’s legacy examining the use of colour in Aboriginal art. This MIA exhibition has grouped several of his works into colour combinations – each representing a different theme such as family or healing.

Movers installing “Bringing Kyle Home” (2012) by Christian Morrisseau, Keewaywin, acrylic on canvas, Private Collection on loan to MIA

And these paintings are HUGE!
So big in fact that we couldn’t put all of Christian’s colour themed paintings together in one place – well, at least not in one physical space…
Which leads us to another thing we here at the museum have been teasing our readers about.
Remember how weeks and weeks ago I, your pesky intern, started dropping hints about a new tech toy we had been experimenting with? Well, this exhibition will be the first time that MIA incorporates AR (Augmented Reality) into our exhibitions!!

Since Christian’s paintings are so big and we wanted to make sure you got a chance to see as many you could, we’re using AR to display virtual versions of his work. As you move throughout the exhibition, you’ll be able to wave your smartphone in front of his paintings and access additional works from his colour series, audio interview clips between Christian Morrisseau and MIA staffer Alysa Procida, and progress images that show his painting process.

While we’re still setting up the space you’ll be able to watch as we do the heavy lifting in order to get the physical space all set up for the show. For more images be sure to visit our Flickr page and brand new Instagram account (our username is miamuseum).

Movers installing “Keewaywin First Nation Chief Joe Meekis” (2012) by Christian Morrisseau, Keewaywin, acrylic on canvas, Private Collection on loan to MIA

– Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

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