Tag Archives: walrus

Get Up Close and Personal: Please DO Touch!

21 Aug

Over the past few weeks, Serena -the museum’s Summer YCW work intern, has been developing more interactive programming inside the museum. After brainstorming, researching, testing and training volunteers she was able to launch Get Up Close and Personal to share art works directly with museum visitors. Read about her experience creating the new program below.

Keeping museum pieces secure and safe from harm is a priority at any museum or art gallery. No museum is complete without a large sign or two saying “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH”. However, if you’ve been to MIA in the last couple of months on a Thursday afternoon, you may have had the chance to participate in our new Get Up Close and Personal sessions.

These interactive sessions offer visitors the unique opportunity to touch objects from the MIA Educational Collection. Pieces in our Educational Collection are meant to be handled, so visitors can feel free to pick them up and learn more about the texture and material of each object.

I’ve been running these weekly Get Up Close and Personal sessions since July, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive so far. Visitors enjoy engaging in this tactile experience and trying to guess what material each piece is made of based on its texture.


Serena is all set to go for ‘Get Up Close and Personal’. You can join a session every Thursday from 1-2 PM in the museum.

It’s quite interesting to see how visual appreciation of the works in the museum translates to visitors’ tactile experiences – I often ask visitors to feel the porous texture of the antler doll in the collection and to guess what material it is made of. The most common answers are “bone” and “wood”, so most visitors are surprised to learn that the doll is made of antler, which caribou shed every year.

It has been especially rewarding to see how visitors make connections between what they have already seen in the museum and what they are holding in their hands. Once visitors find out that the carved ivory piece is a walrus tusk, many of them mention the narwhal tusk and the small ivory sculptures in the historical case at the museum.


Pieces from the museum’s Educational Collection that reflect the different types of materials and textures you can find in art produced by Inuit.

I’ve even encountered visitors who are familiar with Inuit art and have recognized different types of stone, pointing to Pudliak Shaa’s “Dancing Goose” and saying, “is that serpentine?”

These interactions with visitors are part of what makes working at MIA so fulfilling. I love contributing to visitor learning and watching visitors discover more about Inuit art. If you’d like to see (and touch) these objects for yourself, be sure to drop by the museum on Thursdays from 1-2 PM!

Posted by Serena Y., MIA’s Community Engagement Officer

A Final Farewell from Our Collections Management Intern

30 Apr

Four months has gone by incredibly fast for me here at the Museum of Inuit Art! It’s been exceptionally rewarding and informative and I believe that I have learned a considerable amount compared to when I first started in January as the Collections Management Intern. I’ve learned how to catalog and condition report, accession objects and how to move them safely around the museum. I have also how difficult it can be to put up exhibition text panels (it’s surprisingly time-consuming). I’m incredibly grateful to my supervisor, Lauren, for sharing with me her collections wisdom and prowess and providing me with a place where I could learn what’s required for a professional career in museum collections management. Who knew that box making could be a quantifiable skill? I certainly did not, but it’s one that I now have (and like to brag about).

Since the museum has pieces made from a variety of types of materials, I have been able to learn a lot about proper care and storage procedures for substances such as stone, ivory, bone and antler, materials I didn’t think I would ever work closely with. The collection here at the museum is both amazing and diverse and I’m so glad that I have been able to learn and work with the objects, mostly the carvings of arctic wildlife. I now have a particular fondness for all things narwhal and walrus, like this handsome guy by Joanassie Oomayoualook who’s just so chubby and adorable.

Joanassie Oomyoualook

[Walrus] by Joanassie Oomayoualook (1934- ), Inukjuk, stone, ivory, MIA Collection, 2013.4.24.

– Posted by Beth P., MIA’s Collections Managment Intern

Adopt an Object: Untitled (Walrus Amulet)

14 Jan
Walrus amulet

This walrus amulet from the  Thule period is part of the MIA’s new Adopt an Object fundraising initiative.

As part of  the MIA’s new fundraising initiative ‘Adopt an Object’, we’ll be highlighting a featured item from our Permanent Collection that staff have chosen to represent some of  the unique pieces we display in the museum. For more information on the program itself and what it means to be a donor, you can check out our past blog post.

Today, we’re highlighting a staff favourite – a walrus amulet.

Artist: Unidentified
Arctic Canada
Date: Thule Period (1000 – c.1650)
Medium: Ivory, pigment
Dimensions:  H 0.5″ x W 1.5″ x D 0.5″
Collection: MIA Collection

Significance: This piece was created by the Thule who are the direct ancestors of modern Inuit. The Walrus Amulet is one of the more figural pieces in our collection from this period, which is quite unique as most Thule art is more abstract and utilitarian. Help us preserve one of our oldest and most sensitive pieces in the collection by adopting this piece.

Adoption rate: $150

To adopt this piece, contact our curator Alysa at aprocida [at] miamuseum [do-t] ca.

UPDATE: This piece has recently been adopted by a generous donor and is no longer available. 


Posted by Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Spotlight On: Ivory in Inuit Art

11 Apr

Artist Unidentified, Thule Period, Comb, MIA Collection

As far as materials we display in the museum go, few are as controversial as ivory. And it’s no wonder: the most well-known source of ivory is elephant tusks, whose trade severely effected their population. At MIA, we have many ivory pieces on display and often get questions about how it was obtained, where it was obtained and why it was used at all. These are all good questions and ones I want to address.

Ivory in the Arctic generally comes from one of two sources: walrus or narwhal tusks. The word “tusks,” though, is misleading: what we call tusks are actually overgrown incisor teeth. Normally a male narwhal’s upper left incisor tooth begins to protrude (female narwhal generally don’t have a tusk), while both upper incisor teeth on a walrus do the same. Very rarely, both of a narwhal’s upper incisor teeth will protrude, too. The narwhal’s tusk is also the subject of a traditional Inuit legend.

Inuit and their ancestors have hunted walrus and narwhal for centuries in order to survive. Both species are a food source for Inuit and were relied on for the raw materials to make objects like knives and clothing. The local need to hunt these animals continues to this day, an issue highlighted by the recent restrictions of legal export of  narwhal tusks from 17 Arctic communities in Nunavut. International trade in ivory is severely restricted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Speciesof Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The ivory pieces in the museum range from small Thule objects like the comb featured above to intricately carved tusks incorporated into stone sculptures, like those used by Bart Hanna (1948 – ) from Iglulik. Using these pieces of ivory is a way for Inuit artists to essentially recycle: once the animal has been used for its primary purpose, food, the leftover ivory is also utilized.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Officer