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We’re Hiring

17 May

Are you a student who’s interested in working in a museum? Do you want to learn about working with collections? Are you good with power tools?

We’re hiring a technician for the summer. You need to be eligible to participate in Young Canada Works (meaning you need to be returning to school in the fall) and send  me your cover letter and resume to before the 25th at aprocida (at) miamuseum (dot) com.

Here’s the full job description: YCW Technician Position – we’re looking forward to working with a new member of the team!

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Associate Curator


Surveys and Suggestions

2 Sep

If you’ve visited the museum during the last few weeks, you may have been approached by some very inquisitive MIA volunteers. We always love hearing from visitors about their trips to the Arctic, pieces of art they’ve collected, or which work was their favourite piece on display, our volunteers had some specific topics in mind as they distributed this years Visitor Evaluation.

A Visitor Evaluation is a simple questionnaire or survey that helps the museum answer specific questions in order to  improve the museum experience. Surveys can be targeted to a particular exhibition, program, or tour, but they could also be broader in scope to get the “big picture”. For the purposes of our latest evaluation, we looked at: who visits, why they visit, and what they both expected to see that day and would like to see in the future. By asking these questions, we’ll be able to tailor our museum to create the ultimate museum visit and offer you more of what you like.

Just as there are different types of questions that can be asked, how you deliver the survey can also vary. I think we’ve all been prompted by messages online to complete a customer survey, or received a phone call asking for feedback. When we created our evaluation, we wanted to be as unobtrusive as possible so we chose the face-to-face interview method. This less formal style keeps the interactions light and friendly, with the added bonus of being able to share those great stories of your Arctic/Inuit art experiences.

We’ve just about wrapped up our summer round of evaluations but there are still plenty of ways to have your voice heard if you have a comment or suggestion to make. Inside the museum we have a visitor comment board where you can leave a question (or fun drawing like on this board).

The visitor comment board can be found at the entrance to the M. and G. Thiel Audio-Visual Centre.

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter if you wanted to leave us a message online.

To everyone who has already participated, a GIANT “thank you!” for spending some time with our volunteers and answering their questions. And keep an eye out during our next exhibition or program – you might just see some of your suggestions in action!

– Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA Visitor Services Officer

Penny (or Membership) for Your Thoughts

28 Jun

A few days ago, we Tweeted about the arrival of some surprise Trip Advisor mail.
MIA is now the proud new holder of a Certificate of Excellence *Oooo! Ahhhh!*

This accolade is given only to establishments that, “consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor- approximately 10 percent of businesses listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award. To qualify for the Certificate of Excellence, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four or higher (out of a possible five) as reviewed by travelers. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months.”

Pretty cool stuff! Not just because we have a shiny new window cling to put on our front door, or a certificate we can show off in our office – but because our visitors take the time to let us know their thoughts and ideas.

It’s a tricky thing to figure out what people like and don’t like. Museums spend a TON of time creating surveys, asking questions, and analyzing their findings so that future exhibitions and programing are more inline with what visitors expect. Just the other night, while I was checking out the summer exhibition of another local museum, a man with a clipboard came over to ask what I found the most interesting about the show.

Now this  guy was a pro (he literally took courses on visitor studies) AND he happened to be a friend, so I wasn’t the least bit bothered by answering some simple questions BUT not everyone has mastered this delicate question-asking skill. It can be really hard to find that line between inquisitive staffer and pesky telemarketer.

Which leads us back to Trip Advisor, and how this site is pretty amazing for museums.
In case you’ve never visited their site, the basic idea is that whenever you eat at a restaurant, stay in a hotel, or visit any number of businesses – you rate your experience and leave a brief explanation. These comments are all online, so anyone with an internet connection can read them and potentially be influenced as to whether or not they also want to visit those businesses. So if you had a fantastic time at a cafe down the street and you want to help promote them, you can give them a 5 star rating and encourage people to visit them. The same is true if you’ve had a less than pleasant experience and you think people should know how their service could be improved.

Despite the fact that MIA  has this super wonderful certificate of Excellence, we have had some reviews in the past that pointed out an area that could be improved. We took a visitors comment and used it as a great learning experience. When we know what issues people are coming across and we can fix them. While some people might be deterred by the fact that you can’t please everyone, we strive to be as transparent as possible and welcome honest feedback. It’s part of the reason we have a white board comment wall in our museum AND THEN post pictures of it on our Flickr page.

There are plenty of other sites that rate businesses with a similar visitor scale such as Yelp and Foursquare of which we have accounts for both. And if the satisfaction of letting your voice be heard is not enough, we’ve also been rewarding visitors who use those platforms by giving away free stuff like books and memberships when they check in!  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Our Trip Advisor award is not the only recognition the museum has gotten. Yelp presented us with a similar high ratings award with their “People Love Us” stamp of approval/window cling. Maybe there will be some more additions someday soon…

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

Let’s talk about Inuksuit!

2 Jun

Visitors coming into the museum are greeted by an Inuksuk by Adam Noah Alorut. These are one of the most recognizable symbols of the Canadian Arctic. The plural of inuksuk is inuksuit, which means “acting in the capacity of a human”. These manmade rock formations have been created for over 2000 years and are an important survival tool in the Arctic environment, where natural, easily distinguishable landmarks can be few and far between.

“Inuksuk” (2011) by Adam Noah Alorut from Saniarjak (Hall Beach), stone, MIA Collection

We often hear the comment that visitors have seen these stone structures around. Whether by the side of the road, or on top of a hill, inuksuit seem to pop up everywhere. When I was looking into inuksuit, it was interesting to find out that there are actually several types of stone structures.

Director David Harris and Educational Coordinator Alysa Procida in front of a large inuksuk in the centre of Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet)

The innunguaq means “in the likeness of a human” and is a stone structure that resembles the form of a human. These are easily recognizable because of their characteristic “legs” and “arms” that give them the human-like shape. Interestingly enough, innunguaq are not actually considered inuksuit because they do not serve as a functional tool.

There are a variety of categories of inuksuit and they are divided by their intended purpose. For example, a tunillarvik, which is characteristically defined by having one large upright stone among a variety of little ones, is used to provide healing and protection to those that venerate it.

The nalunaikkutaaq is a stone structure that means “deconfuser”. It is often in the shape of a single upright  stone standing on end and is used to remind its builder of a variety of things, like where he cached his summer equipment, for instance.

tikkuuti is a pointer. These can be made in different sizes and shapes, suck as a triangular rock lying flat on the ground or a simple arrangement of rocks places in a straight line.

An inuksummarik or an inuksukjuaq, are often rounded boulders placed to form the shape of a pyramid and noted for being larger than average size. These are used as directional aids.

Within these categories, inuksuit can get pretty specific. For example, a niungvaliruluit is an inuksuk in the shape of a window which is used for sighting and aligning. Sometimes, you can see the next place marker within the frame of the niungvaliruluit or the destination itself. Even though it has its own name, because it is a directional aide, it belongs to the inuksukjuaq category of inuksuit.

For more information about these stone structures, you can check out the book Inuksuit: Silent Messengers of the Arctic by Norman Hallendy that we have available at the front desk. Next time you see an inuksuk in the great outdoors, or in our museum,  you can now know its intended purpose, since they are all so different!

Posted by Karolina Tomaszewska, MIA’s Development Officer


Greetings from the newest MIA Development Officer

28 May

Christine Platt, Development Officer, with her favourite Abraham Anghik Ruben artwork, “Raven and Sedna,” 2009

Hello everybody!

My name is Christine Platt, and I just joined the MIA team as a Development Officer! I am excited to work on the Inuit Art Magazine, the Canadian Inuit Art Project and much more. I especially look forward to sharing knowledge and ideas on contemporary Inuit art with all of you.

Before joining MIA, I completed a Masters in Museum Studies and a Masters in contemporary Chinese art. I also worked for a contemporary art fund in the Netherlands, and I’ve volunteered at many museums while living and working around the world (including at MIA as a docent).

I hope that together with the MIA staff and volunteers, I will help to engage an even wider audience in learning and experiencing Inuit art. I particularly aim to help attract more collectors to enter the contemporary Inuit art market. The artworks featured at the museum and in the gallery express so much in form, style, emotion and cultural heritage, which could enhance many private and corporate collections and the personal life experiences of our visitors and friends.

I will write on the blog to tell you more about this as I collaborate on different projects in the museum. Stay tuned for more!

-posted by Christine Platt, Development Officer

Summer Intern Introduction

1 May

Brittany Holliss, the MIA's summer intern, with her favorite Dancing Bear sculptures

Good afternoon! ᐅᓐᓄᓴᒃᑯᑦ (unnusakkut)
My name is Brittany Holliss, and I’m the latest member of the MIA team! For the next few months I’ll be interning here in the museum, and posting about all the interesting things I get to learn and experience as a future museum professional.

Before moving my way up from museum visitor, to volunteer, to intern I was a roaming student. I’ve been all across Canada, Europe, and Asia (I actually lived in South Korea for a few years). Through it all I loved exploring different museums and cultural heritage sites, intrigued by local customs, traditions, food, and art.

There are still a lot of places I have yet to visit, but in the meantime I’m working on combining my love of globetrotting with my passion for art. As part of my Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto, I’ve been given the opportunity to work with MIA. I was so excited to learn that Toronto is home to the World’s only exclusively Inuit museum, and that they were interested in taking me on as an intern. Through their collection and expertise I’ve been given an opportunity to pseudo-travel to the Arctic AND learn more about the Canadian contemporary art scene.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my experience with you.
Stay tuned and enjoy!

posted by Brittany Holliss, Educational Assistant

Sustainable, Enjoyable Commuting at MIA

29 Apr

The weather in Toronto has been a bit up and down lately, but days like today remind us all how beautiful the Waterfront can be here. Our Director David Harris knows this first hand – he cycles to work almost every day.

David often wears the colours of the Nunavut flag when he cycles. Having been a teacher in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) before returning to southern Canada, he actually has a Nunavut flag patch attached to his bag. David has previously used his cycling to raise awareness about the Arctic, too.

There are lots of places to park your bike near MIA if you want to join David in cycling to the museum on a nice day (plus parking and public transit options).

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator