Today I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lecture with my colleagues at the Canadian Museum Association, which was held at the Centre for Global Pluralism, and featured Dr. Maureen Matthews. Matthews is the curator of Ethnology at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg. In the talk, “We are not quite All Treaty People yet,” Matthews discussed the work she and the museum have done since her arrival there five years ago to not only improve the exhibits which discuss Indigenous people in Manitoba and Canada at the museum, but also the initiatives she has made in both the repatriation of Indigenous artifacts and fostering long-term, trusting and honest relationships with Indigenous communities in order to ensure that museums are telling stories for them, and not just about them.
While I was visiting the Royal Ontario Museum, I was fortunate enough to be able to see an exhibit called “The Family Camera.” This was a special exhibit, which unfortunately has finished it’s run now, so if you didn’t get a chance to see it, I’m sorry to say that you really missed out.
I’ve been spending some time digging through the online archive for The Ottawa Journal recently, and I have to say that I’ve stumbled upon some pretty fun columns. One of the first ones to catch my attention was published on May 27, 1886. It provides an account of an address given the previous night by Sir William Dawson to the Royal Society of Canada. Dawson suggested that it would be an advantageous idea for Ottawa to have a National Museum. Considering that there are now four directly in Ottawa and another just across the river in Gatineau, I’d say he was probably on to something….
I was recently in contact with the curator at the Fort St. John North Peace Museum, and my exhibit is now up and on display to the public! She told me that people have been visiting the museum specifically to see this exhibit. As far as I’m concerned, that means I’ve done my job.
On my visit to Toronto, I was probably the most excited to go to the Royal Ontario Museum. All I had ever heard about it told me that it would be huge and hugely overwhelming – I wasn’t disappointed in this regard.
I explored every exhibit in every room on every floor, all in one day. It took me about four hours, and at the end of my visit I realized that trying to see the entire ROM in one day was a mistake – there’s just way to much to try and take in. If you have never been, I would definitely suggest taking it a floor, or maybe two, at a time, to really get the full experience without completely exhausting yourself. I think for myself, I plan to focus on special exhibits and my favourite galleries in future visits.
It has been a few weeks since I posted the original story, and since that time I have been able to do a little more digging – or rather, enlisted the help of professionals in the collection!
I got in touch with the Canadian Museum of Nature Library staff to try and find out the answers to the questions I still had at the end of the first installment of this story. I still don’t have all of the answers, but I think I’m getting a little closer. I was put in touch with the Archivist, the Curator of the Vertebrate Collection, and an Assistant in Collections Services, who kindly and enthusiastically put their skills and knowledge to work for me.
When I visited Toronto for the first time this spring, one of the places that I spent some time exploring in was the BATA Shoe Museum. For those who have never been, it is about an 8 minute walk down the street from the Royal Ontario Museum, and a convenient skip over from the Museum subway stop. For someone completely uninitiated in the city, the fact that it was so easy to find was definitely a deciding factor in my decision to check it out.
Boy am I ever glad I did! Before going, I really didn’t know anything about the museum or what its exhibits would be about, but from the first exhibit to the last, the BATA is now my favourite museum that I have ever visited. Even if you aren’t interested in shoes or fashion history, don’t let that stop you from going. What I love about the BATA is that shoes are actually just the vehicle through which they explore a wide variety of important and interesting moments in history and the people carrying out their lives from all walks of life in all different types of footwear.