The Vancouver MOA, American Traditions

Perched on the Western edge of Vancouver, on the campus of the University of British Columbia, the MOA (Museum of Anthropology) brings together some 535,000 ethnographic objects, of which 6000 are textiles from across the world: examples abound from the South Pacific, Asia, Africa, Europe and South America, but especially from North America.
To showcase their ethnographic collections, the MOA has opened their archives to the public with Multiversity Galleries (Ways of Knowing). These exhibition galleries offer a privileged access to thousands of objects patiently collected by the museum since their founding in 1976: an exceptionally diverse collection of artisanal pieces (pottery, blankets, clothing, drapery, accessories, jewelry, sculptures, masks, etc.) representing a variety of global cultures. Making the museum into a sensorial, interactive experience has been a successful challenge for the MOA. Thanks to a digital catalog available both online and on-site, it is possible to find specific artifacts, learn more about their origins and locate them in the wings of the museum.
The Multiversity Galleries afford a special place to different native British Columbian groups, including the Kwakwaka’wakw, Tsimshian, Haida, Tlingit and the Coast Salish. Their textile production is covered extensively: blankets, drapery, ceremonial wool, fiber and hide coats, leggings, moccasins, belts, and so on. Visitors can also discover a series of capes and blankets typical of the Coast Salish. These pieces in thick sheep wool are woven on vertical looms and feature large geometric motifs of arrows, diamonds and chevrons.
In a different aesthetic vein, the traditional Haida capes are also on view, called Button Blankets. Usually red and black, they are cut from thick wool felt and embroidered with pearl buttons and insets representing the tribe of origin of the owner. These symbols are also to be found in wooden carvings, offering a spectacular narrative decoration that blends natural stylistic elements with sacred animal imagery including bears, whales, wolves and eagles.
A place of dialog and exchange, the museum supports a larger program focusing on collaboration and consultation with native communities in exhibition production and showcasing of their objects. The textile art of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest speaks to ancestral rites still very much alive, which the MOA hopes to highlight and teach about while remaining close with those who still carry such knowledge today.
Photo Credits: Magali An Berthon