March 2010

Clash of Civilizations: BC Museum of Anthropology

Today was a rainy Sunday. It actually started OK but towards the afternoon it began to rain. Nevertheless, I decided to take a walk as my pedometer was unforgiving and I felt that I owe a nice walk to myself independent of the weather. So I left home and headed towards the Museum of Anthropology. I have never been interested in this museum besides it amazing architecture and location. The architect of this museum is a famous Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. I think I visited it once and didn’t find it particularly interesting. So I just walked toward it and decided to pass it and head towards the ocean. There is a beauty in the ocean during the rain and I like it. However, on the way I saw a family leaving the museum and they looked so happy and excited that I decided to try it. In addition, the rain became heavier so I was happy to be indoors. So I entered the museum (UBC faculty and staff have a free pass  too!). I was lucky to find a guided tour, so I joined it. How surprised was I to find such an amazing museum a 15-minute walk from home and a 10 minute walk from work. The museum is unbelievably interesting (thanks to a great guide and amazing exhibits). I was astounded to realize how I didn’t notice it before. I do not want to spoil it for you, yet, I want to share with you one interesting piece I found today. The museum exhibits lots of interesting artifacts from the First Nations and had a significant exhibit of the works by Bill Reid. One of the sculptures by Bill Reid called “Raven and the first Men” talks about the interpretation of creation by Haida Indians. I never noticed but we have the image of this sculpture imprinted on the 20-dollar Canadian bill. It is a very interesting sculpture and its location in the museum in the Bill Reid Rotunda is also very special. In addition, I found out that Ryerson University (the university that is very special for me) played an important role in Bill Reid’s life – he studied jewelry making there and the rest, as people say, was history…

However, the reason I place this post under the technology and education blog is because I really liked how the Museum incorporates technology to help the visitors get a deeper understanding of the artifacts. All over the museum you will find the touch screen computers. You can use them to find information about any artifact in a particular exhibit. This is a very clever way of helping the guest interact with the exhibits. I also like it more than having earphones as you interact with the exhibits and then if you find it interesting you can come closers and learn deeper about whatever artifact you are curious about. It was  very interesting to me how modern technology and First Nation culture got integrated in the museum. On one hand, there is a huge gap between the two, on the other the integration of this technology in the museum opens new possibilities to understand a Civilization, that has been a part of the place we live in for thousands of years.

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