This fashionable suggestive-of-NY trigram is the new handle the UBC Museum of Anthropology would like to be known by. Well, I guess two syllables is better than twelve. When people coming to Vancouver ask what they should, the list I offer depends on what kind of person is asking, but it always includes MOA. Here are some pictures.
Usually I don’t take pictures in museums, because I like to take pictures of the unexpected. But the light was really good when we took the kids there the other day and I couldn’t resist.
Did I say we took the kids? Yes, it was a rainy Sunday and we didn’t have anything in particular on, and if we’d been cooped up in the house all day with our two young high-energy children, someone would have been strangled. The eleven-year-old asked if his friend could come along, and that was fine. Anyhow, it’s a perfectly OK place to take kids.
It tries hard to present cultural artifacts from around the Pacific Rim, and even has some European and African coverage, but the strong suit is obviously our own Pacific-Northwestern aboriginal work, notably including totem poles and related large wooden sculptured objects.
This Sunday, there was an art sale on, and while we didn’t buy anything, it was great fun walking around. They had a few native carvers in there shaping great rough tree fragments with knives hand-made for the purpose. They were affable and seemed to enjoy telling the kids the stories behind the pieces.
Also, there was a storyteller, a woman (I didn’t get her name) who accompanied herself sparingly on cello and little percussion shakers as she told a long Inuit story. I’m not sure it was really for the children, full of murder and cannibalism and treachery, and (even worse) kind of long. She held my four-year-old’s attention, but a few of the other kids got cranky. I sure enjoyed it.
The culture behind these images, which are not terribly warm and fuzzy, was not terribly warm and fuzzy. Of course they had the potlatch tradition, and you have to love that, competitive giving to establish status. But also they were brutal warriors, and slavers too.
One of the nicest things at MOA is that there are a couple of big rooms with big glass-topped cabinets displaying one thing or another. But look close and there are drawers all down the sides; you can pull them out and they’re all full, usually of variations on whatever’s on top.
The drawers are big and heavy but on silk-smooth bearings; I showed my little girl how they worked and she loved them. Then she hauled on a huge double-width drawer; rolling out, it knocked her flat and she vanished beneath it. No harm done, but scary for a moment.
Part of the display is outside, on the high ground overlooking the pacific. The rain had dried up and the buildings were steaming, the way the rain forest where they belong does when it’s sunny after the wet.