UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

(In)tangible : Indigenous responses to In a Different Light at the Museum of Anthropology Sorensen, Amanda H.


Collaborative museology aims to foster relationships between museums and relevant stakeholders. Reflective and reflexive conversations about exhibits with stakeholding audiences are rarely built into museum practice post-exhibit installation. This thesis is an exploration into how discussions about exhibit representations with these audiences can continue after exhibits go up. I examine curatorial decisions and Indigenous responses to the design and messaging of one exhibit in the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Specifically, I consider 'In a Different Light: Reflecting on Northwest Coast Art,' the inaugural exhibit for the Elspeth McConnell Gallery of Northwest Coast Masterworks. Through semi-structured interviews and self-guided exhibit viewings, I discussed the exhibit’s displays with the associated curators and with four Indigenous women, who are current students or recent graduates of UBC programs. The exhibit reviewers picked up on core themes of 'In a Different Light,' including continuity, longevity, and the intangible meanings attributed to works displayed. The critiques they expressed point to two recommendations: 1) situate curators in relation to the exhibit topic; 2) continue to include nuanced, critical information that culturally contextualizes displayed works with their associated histories and stories. Challenging critiques raised important issues between how museums treat collections and how belongings are used within communities. I assert that it is a missed opportunity to treat installed exhibits as finished products, as representations that would not benefit from continued examination.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International