Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by the UBC Museum of Anthropology. This panel followed a performance by artist Peter Morin entitled ‘Hello Darlin’’.

Chair:  John Wynne.
Panelists: Margery Fee, Patrick Moore, Peter Morin, Khelsilem Rivers.

This session explores the museum as a site of cultural contestation and issues of appropriation and commodification. How is cultural identity conveyed in art – by whom and for whom?  We hope to explore a variety of perspectives. One view is that in dealing with Indigenous issues, non-Indigenous artists and researchers are simply engaging in ‘metaphorical microcolonialism’ (Corbett).  Alternatively, some see in cross-cultural collaborations the potential for ‘a dialogue across the boundaries of oppositions’ (Smith).  As such, how do ethical considerations and artistic license co-exist?  Are issue-based and socially-engaged artistic practice simply a less effective form of activism or do they have a unique contribution to make in defining cultural identity and promoting recognition of the value of indigenous languages

About the Participants:

Margery Fee is a Professor of English at UBC where she teaches science fiction, science and technology studies and Indigenous literatures. In 2008, she was Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies, writing about how some discourses of genetics/genomics contribute to the racialization of minority groups, particularly Indigenous people. Her current research project is Wacousta’s Dilemma: Literature and Land Claims, which examines how land ownership figures in the work of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Patrick Moore is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. He has worked with Athabaskan languages in Alberta, the Yukon, and British Columbia for over three decades. With Angela Wheelock, he translated and co-edited Wolverine: Myths and Visions and Dene Gedeni: Traditional Lifestyles of Kaska Women. He edited a collection of Kaska stories Dene Gudeji: Kaska Narratives and wrote a Kaska, Mountain Slavey and Sekani noun dictionary Gūzāgi K’ū́gé’.

Peter Morin is a Tahltan Nation artist and curator. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries, including the Royal Ontario Museum, Open Space (Victoria), MOA Satellite Gallery (Vancouver) and Urban Shaman Gallery (Winnipeg). His artistic practice investigates the impact between indigenous culturally-based practices and western settler colonialism. Morin recently completed a series of new performance works for the Indigenity in the Contemporary World research initiative at Royal Holloway University, London, UK.

Khelsilem Rivers was born in North Vancouver, BC in 1989 and recently given the names Sxwchálten and X̱elsílem by his paternal grandmother, Audrey Rivers (Tiyáltelut) of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh. His work has been focused on the rebuilding of Indigenous language fluency in the face of language speaker decline. He is a strong believer that “languages don’t die in healthy communities”, and as such has worked on the concurrent effort of rebuilding healthy community through language-fluency revitalization and vice versa.

John Wynne is an award-winning sound artist whose work includes site-specific installations, ‘composed documentaries’ for radio, projects with speakers of endangered languages and a body of work with heart and lung transplant recipients. He has a PhD from Goldsmiths College, University of London and is a Reader in Sound Arts at the University of the Arts London.


The public symposium ‘On Endangered Languages: Indigeneity, Community, and Creative Practice’ took place at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia on Sept. 14th, 2013. It was co-organized by Karen Duffek, Kate Hennessy, Tyler Peterson, and John Wynne.

Symposium Description:

As the multi-sensory installation Anspayaxw opens for exhibition in the Satellite Gallery in Vancouver, we bring artist John Wynne, linguist Tyler Peterson, anthropologist Kate Hennessy, Musqueam elder Larry Grant, and Gitxsan participants Louise Wilson and Barbara Harris into conversation with scholars and artists on the preservation of endangered languages, the interconnected role of digital media, and engagements with artistic practice.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith has described research as “probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world’s vocabulary” – but as she also acknowledges, “at some points there is, there has to be, dialogue across the boundaries of oppositions.” Beyond the customary exploration of academic interests and language maintenance efforts, this symposium will problematize research and raise questions about the opportunities and consequences of language documentation for local communities and collaborating outsiders.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has drawn attention to the enduring significance of Indigenous languages. Against this backdrop we will explore some of the ways in which language documentation is being used by speakers to communicate identity, sovereignty, and contemporary representations of community. We will further examine the ethical and moral obligations created in the act of documentation, while questioning how research relationships and collaborations might raise awareness of the status of endangered languages. As documentary and archiving technologies rapidly change, we ask what role digital technology plays in the preservation––or conversely, the loss––of documentary media. What are appropriate uses and reuses of language documentation, and who, ultimately, are the beneficiaries of these documentary initiatives? In the context of Anspayaxw, are creative and artistic explorations of language documentation at odds with the goal of revitalization, or do they open up new possibilities for understanding the complex social and historical territory of ongoing colonial relationships?

Wynne’s Anspayaxw (2010) is a 12-channel sound and photography installation based on his collaborations with Tyler Peterson, artist/photographer Denise Hawrysio, and members of the Gitxsan community at Kispiox, British Columbia. Using innovative sound technology, the installation merges recordings of the endangered Gitxsanimaax language, oral histories, and songs with situational portraits of the participants and photographs of hand-made street signs on the reserve made by one of the participants in the 1970s. The work highlights the subjective nature of language documentation, interpretation, and creative expression. The complex relationships between linguistic researchers and language speakers are recognized and represented in image and sound, cut through by questions of power, ownership, and the desire to document, preserve, and revitalize endangered languages.

Take care of our collections

April 21 to 27 is Preservation Week. We asked Alvan Bregman, UBC Library’s Head of Technical Services, and Preservation Librarian, to answer a few questions on what preservation means at UBC Library. 


Librarian reviewing books

What is a “preservation culture,” and why is it important to develop one at UBC Library?

We spend a lot of money acquiring items for our collection—we need to ensure that items are accessible, and are in good condition for as long as possible. A damaged book that must be taken out of circulation is of use to no one. By creating a “preservation culture” within the library, I mean building a concern for the preservation of our collections into all our policies and procedures.

That means finding ways to eliminate practices that are detrimental to library materials. For example, we should always use bookends to keep our books upright. To do this means we might have to pay a little more attention or rethink how we organize our shelves. If we are successful in creating a “preservation culture” then everyone will feel responsible to straighten books if they see them leaning on the shelf, and we would make this simple for people by having bookends on every shelf. That’s only one small example.


What are the top 3 priorities of the UBC Library preservation program for the upcoming year?

The top three priorities for the preservation program is to develop the new Preservation Unit within Technical Services, to provide a framework for stabilizing all material designated for high-density storage, and to provide training and education to staff and library users.


Before coming to UBC, you worked at the University of Illinois’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where you implemented a preservation program. What was the most significant challenge you observed when the preservation program was being implemented?

The most significant challenge in implementing a preservation program at Illinois was the scale of needs. Illinois was exceptional because the buildings were generally much older–compared to what we have here at UBC. The keys to success at Illinois were effective long-range planning, finding people with the right professional background, getting strong support from the library administration for preservation and conservation initiatives, and securing endowment and grant funding for a first-rate conservation lab.


Which organizations do you look to for the highest standards in preservation and conservation?

Within Canada, I look to the University of Toronto as a model and to the Canadian Conservation Institute for research and the provision of standards. In reality, though, one must look primarily to the United States, where there are many institutions and associations eminent in the field, such as the Library of Congress Preservation Department.


Earthquake preparedness is part of UBC Library’s Disaster Recovery Plan; what are the most important points for Library staff to keep in mind?

I would advise everyone to take disaster preparedness very seriously. The first element in our Collections Recovery plan is human safety. Once buildings are declared safe, our plan defines a structure for dealing with disasters, should they strike. The plan also contains information on handling affected material, who to call, etc. One of the steps we are currently taking is to create triage lists, so we know what material we consider irreplaceable or highly important. 

Image of book cover

The April issue of LibFOCUS explores preservation and highlights upcoming events at UBC Library, including the New Treasures exhibition.


Cover image from Japanese Fairy Tales by Lafcaido Hearn, PZ6 1898 H427. Photo courtesy of UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections.


Librarian reviewing books

UBC Library’s preservation program for physical and digital items is highlighted in a UBC Reports article. 

“The long-term stewardship of materials both digital and analog is one of the cornerstones of libraries,” says Bronwen Sprout, Digital Initiatives Coordinator at UBC Library. The article also features the Library’s Alvan Bregman and Jo Anne Newyear Ramirez.

Read The fight against mould, rot and decay in UBC Reports.


Conference Program 

The protection of digital assets is the focus of the UNESCO / UBC Vancouver Declaration on Digitization and Preservation, released by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

The statement emerged from an international conference, held in Vancouver in September 2012 and organized by UNESCO in co-operation with UBC, that focused on the preservation of digital documentary heritage. More than 500 participants from the public and private sectors - including Ingrid Parent, UBC’s University Librarian and Allan Bell, UBC Library’s Director of Digital Initiatives - discussed the protection of digital assets at the event.

For more on UBC Library’s digital agenda, please visit diginit.library.ubc.ca.


This week’s UNESCO conference in Vancouver, entitled “The Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation,” is featured in a recent Province article stressing the importance of protecting digitally preserved knowledge.

“It’s one thing for a computer crash to erase all your personal data. But imagine if humanity’s historical hard drive was wiped out.” Read more online, “Protecting digitally preserved knowledge is focus of UNESCO conference,” by Elaine O’Connor, The Province.

Conference ProgramConvening more than 120 speakers and 700 delegates from five continents, the UNESCO International Conference: Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation will foster vital exchange among sectors as diverse as academia, heritage institutions, the IT industry, business organizations and government.

Hosted by UBC and in collaboration with the University of Toronto, the conference will explore topics such as:
> Protecting intellectual property in the digital age;
> Maximizing the unprecedented potential of digital technologies to preserve and share scientific and cultural works; and,
> Enhancing digital creation and preservation, especially with “born-digital” records, documents, data and archives.

Experts from UBC Library and UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS) will be participating in various sessions throughout the three day conference, which starts September 26 at the Sheraton Wall Centre hotel.

Media requesting interviews with UBC Library or SLAIS representatives on-site should contact either Lorraine Chan at 604.822.2644 or Linda Ong at 604.827.4831 for assistance. 

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