The Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver is breathtaking. First Nation totems fill the central atrium, magnificent in height, symbolism and time, while hand-carved canoes and masks narrate the story of local traditions and oral histories. Tucked into the landscape on the very edge of West Vancouver, MOA overlooks Vancouver’s bay and provides a space for contemplation, reflection, and reverence.
As part of the University of British Columbia, the museum places a strong emphasis on education and research. Half of the museum is dedicated to the collection, publicly presented in glass display cases and interactive drawers. Rather than hide its contents, everything is put on view, creating a brilliant experience of discovering endless masks, figurines and beaded garments. Keenly aware of its relation to contemporary native culture, the museum also shares each object’s history of acquisition. This openness manifests into shared oral histories from artists’ descendants that can be read while admiring photographic documents that provide further imagery and narrative. The result is a stunning testament to first nation culture.
US Museums should really take a page from MOA.