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Museum of Anthropology Vancouver: The Perfect Guide

The Museum of Anthropology Vancouver (MOA) is located at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver campus. It’s one of the world-renowned finest places for arts and cultures. About over 500,000 cultural artifacts reside in the Museum of Anthropology Vancouver. These include the collection of British Columbia (BC) First Nation’s arts and objects.

MOA displays archaeological and ethnographic objects from around the world. However, its main emphasis is on First Nations objects that originate from the Northwest coast of BC. When you walk to the Museum’s great hall, these objects are a major attraction. They include First Nation totem poles, feast dishes, and canoes.

There are more of these objects in additional galleries.  You’ll be bewildered by dazzling jewelry, ceramics, ceremonial masks, and others. 

Among the Museum’s first nation collection is the “Raven and the First men’s” sculpture. It’s the famous artist Bill Reid of the BC First Nations who created this iconic structure. You can find a similar picture at the back of the Canadian $20 bill.


The History The Museum of Anthropology

Skeleton Anthropology
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This famous Museum of Vancouver started in 1927 with its initial Frank Burnett Collection. Later on, there were two Musqueam house posts donated by UBC 1927 graduating class. The Museum also acquired some salvaged totem poles from Marius Barbeau and Buttimer collection from First Nation Basketry. They were displayed in the UBC main library basement.

The Museum officially opened in 1947. Its first director was Harry Hawthorn, and his wife Audrey Hawthorn was the curator. Construction of a new building to house the Museum began in 1971. Over the years, the Museum has been remodeled through multimillion-dollar renovations to become what is today.


MOA Museum Exhibits

The first-time visit to this anthropology museum can be an exciting one. To start, the building itself is remarkably beautiful, and it’s glass walls will strike you before you can notice the First Nations’ art. So you’re left wondering what’s inside. Here are the exhibits to find in the Museum of Anthropology Vancouver.


Koerner European Ceramics Gallery

Anthropology Ceramic
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The gallery features over 600 European ceramics, a collection by Dr. Walter C. Koerner. Dr. Koerner donated them in 1987, but the gallery opened in 1990. The collection includes samples of lead-glazed and tin-glazed earthenware made in the 16th and 19th Centuries.

These earthenware commemorate the Anabaptists, a religious sect, the only ones who knew the secret of making the wares. There will always be some history behind each of the displays. The more you visit, the more you learn.

It’s an entirely unique collection in the world. Some of the pieces are the most excellent collection in North America. The view of the ceramics and textiles makes you see the beauty and feel the artistry of contemporary Vancouver artists.

The 200 decorative wares are functional. They signify the exquisite craftsmanship of European objects in those early days. Also, they are meant to pay tribute to the socio-political forces that molded Europe.


Bill Reid Rotunda

Anthropology Statues
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The Haida artist Bill Reid’s largest collection is at MOA. His sculpture is the most famous and stands as MOA’s icon. That’s the yellow ‘Raven and the First Men‘. The Museum holds more of this artist as there are also the works of gold, silver, wood, and argillite.

Reid made this massive creation out of laminated yellow cedar with the help of other artists. Walter and Marriane Koerner are the duos who commissioned the sculpture. Guess who unveiled it. It’s HRH, the Prince of Wales, in 1980.

The view of it makes you want to know its symbolism. And, yes, there’s a history behind it. It bespeaks beliefs about the origin of Haida people. The first Haidas were found in a clamshell on a beach. Reid’s work was featured for several years on a Canadian $20 bill.


Multiversity Galleries

Anthropology Museum
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The multiversity galleries hold a considerable number of objects from MOA’s research collections. The Museum collaborated with communities whose ancestors were significant contributors to the display work. These communities also assisted in organizing the collections by giving their classification systems.

All contributors’ efforts provided more than 9,000 objects from various corners of the world, which the gallery now holds. The gallery is a provision of items that would otherwise be things behind the scene. Thanks to the operators of these galleries that these items are accessible by the public. 

Visitors who have visited the gallery say that the display is dramatically well-visible by their nature of the design. There are also the digital Catalogue Terminals (MOACAT), which offer additional collections at the touch of a screen. They are for images, audio, and video.


Musqueam Welcome Plaza

Musqueam Anthropology
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The MOA stands on the traditional land of Musqueam people. Therefore, the Musqueam and the museum stakeholders commemorated the naming of the Welcome Plaza. The plaza also recognizes the works of Musqueam artists like Susan Point and Joe Becker.

Both of these artists have their work displayed in Welcome Plaza. Their pieces include the Salish Footprint, the Transformation, and an Ancestor Figure. These are precisely a few of the several Musqueam artifacts you will find in this part of MOA.

The collections depict the work of anthropologists from the 19th and 20th Centuries. There is a lot to learn about Musqueam people.


The Great Hall

Museum of Anthropology
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This is a spectacular and fascinating place made of 15-meter high glass walls. It’s an exhibit that features the Northwest coast culture. Things on display include sculptures, bentwood boxes, textiles, canoes and feast dishes.

In this exhibit, you also find the house posts, large poles and carved figures from the mid-19th Century. The Great Hall also features contemporary artists like Nuu-chah-nulth artist Joe David who has a ‘Welcome Figure.’ Others include Haida artists Robert Davidson and Michael Nicoll with their works as ‘yaahl kingnganggang’ (Raven Calling) and Bone Box, respectively.

Therefore, it’s an exhibit that mainly highlights the Haida artists and First Nation villages, particularly along the British Columbia’s coast.


Museum Grounds

Museum Anthropology
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Museum Grounds is another place to find the work of Musqueam and Haida artists. Nonetheless, it also highlights Gitxsan and Kwakwaka’wakw artists. There are carvings of two large house boards along the path behind the museum. Both are the works of Susan Point in 1997.

At the back of the museum, you’ll also find a mortuary and another house. These two are constructions of Doug Cranmer, a Namgis artist, and Haida artist Bill Reid. They are modeled on Haida village of the 19th Century.

Next to the two buildings features a lovely scenery of Yosef Wosk Reflecting Pool. Its dynamic view animates the site as it reflects the sky. Then, there are memorial and mortuary poles surrounding the pool.


Audain Gallery

Audain Gallery
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Audain Gallery is among the newest exhibits in the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver. It’s creation aimed to attract international visitors who would otherwise not visit for lack of enough space. Its major collection is the donation from arts patron Michael Audain. He’s also the donor to the project.

The exhibit purely focuses on British Columbia First Nation’s art. Then features Emily Carr and contemporary artists like Attila Richard Lukacs and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. The gallery slightly departs from the existing styles to show more of an aesthetic context. Thus, modifying the anthropological setting.


Elspeth McConnell Gallery Of Northwest Coast Masterworks

Anthropology Museum Vancouver
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This is another new exhibit in the Anthropology museum. The Elspeth McConnell Gallery of Northwest Coast Masterworks was launched in 2017. It was initially Michael M. Ames Theatre but was renovated through a donation from Canada federal government and other stakeholders.

It then became an art gallery that features a set of cutting-edge technology that bonds with the natural setting of the environment. This groundbreaking gallery dedicates to Northwest coast indigenous works.

This 210 meters gallery holds more than 100 indigenous historical objects. The objects represent over 30 indigenous voices in text, audio, and video. There is also a custom microchip for reading grey weather patterns. 


Audrey And Harry Hawthorn Library And Archive

Anthropology Vancouver
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This exhibit is open to the public. The archive has about 90,000 photographs covering many cultures. It also covers historical events and ethnographic subjects. These collections date from as early as 1890.

They are great treasures to researchers, artists, and writers who visit this gallery to discover ancient history about communities.


African And Asian Collections

Anthropology Museum
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African collections gained access to MOA through missionaries, ex-colonial officers and travelers. Here you’ll find Yoruba thorn carvings, masks, and more than 100 Tanzanian Makonde figures. Also, there are 100 Asante gold weights, South Africa weaponry, and mortuary objects from Egypt.

Asian collections are about 40% of the total MOA collections. You’ll find those from China, Japan, India and more. Precisely, Chinese collections include more than 1000 pieces of ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings. There is a massive collection of Japanese prints, Indian calendar prints, Hindu arts, textiles, and clothing.

You’ll be surprised by other Asian wealth of arts like more than 2000 Chinese coins and amulets. Others include rare Tibetan robes, masks from Noe, and 200 Sichuan blue thread embroideries.

Your visit to Vancouver cannot exclude touring the Museum of anthropology. A lot is there to see and learn. The Museum opens Tuesday through Sunday from 10.00 to 17.00.

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