ḴinhlG̱algwang

I promised to blog about my time in Vancouver. I suppose I have been putting it off- I hadn’t realized it had been so long since my last blog. My plans to post on a schedule have never worked out.

In case you were wondering, my internships in Vancouver were incredible.

I started out at the Bill Reid Gallery working with Kwiaahwah Jones, Curator. I was thrilled to be exposed to such a different setting than what I’m used to here at the Haida Gwaii Museum. The Bill Reid Gallery is small- but being in the city they can reach a broader audience than we can here on Haida Gwaii.

I had an amazing time learning from the intelligent, brainy and power-house marketing department. Every show I’ve been to at the Bill Reid Gallery has been packed. That is because of the work of Paula and Meredith. They are truly incredible. I hope to learn more from them sometime soon. Under Kwi’s guidance I worked on a mini-display featuring the Great Box project during my time at the Gallery. I attended a board meeting, learned about the organization and really appreciate them taking me in for a few weeks and Kwi’s work in mentoring me.

The highlight of my time there was actually a field trip to the Museum of Vancouver (MOV)- to see their Haida Collection. Other artsy Haida’s were there and we were all getting excited and calling each other over to look at items. It’s always a bit sad to see totem poles in giant storage rooms, artifacts on dark shelves. It’s a strange world we live in. However- I am so grateful to the team at MOV and to Kwi for arranging this incredible day.

After my time at the Bill Reid Gallery I moved on to working at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology (MOA). It was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. What MOA has in terms of resources, employees, storage facilities, archival information, conservation resources, etc- is amazing! It was humbling to work in an institution of that size- with incredible teams in all departments. I spent time talking to the finance, marketing and education departments. Three days working in the library and archives.

The first couple of weeks I was there I worked in Conservation- an area in which I had zero previous knowledge. I learned so many new things, how to preserve objects properly, pest management, repair broken objects, etc. Working in a lab setting and doing basic chemistry (with assistance) was so outside of my comfort zone- but I am so grateful for the patience of the conservation team in helping me learn.

The highlight of this stint was another field trip to the Vancouver Police Museum. Those of you who know me personally know that I studied Criminology- and I geek out over it. We got a behind the scenes tour, including the history of their collection, etc. I was thrilled- a giant smile across my face all afternoon.

Perhaps I just like going on Field Trips? Really, who doesn’t?

I worked with Karen Duffek, Curator, Contemporary Visual Arts & Pacific Northwest. She is another powerhouse woman. In my time with Karen I went to acquisitions and exhibition planning meetings. I was delayed starting with her for a few days as she was finishing a book- here I’m putting off writing blogs! I got to tag along on a curators tour. I researched, answered comment cards and wrote a mini-exhibition proposal.

I also met with another curator Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura, MOA Curator, Asia and discussed her exhibition, (In)visible with her – she took the time to tour me through the Asian Collection. Which, if I’m being honest, I have never taken the time to look at myself. I generally look at the Northwest Coast Collection only. If you do the same- I urge you to go a little further and delve into the amazing Asian collection that MOA has on display. Fuyubi and I had incredibly interesting discussions about the similarities between Asian Indigenous cultures and Haida culture. We looked at Japanese model canoes that were eerily similar to Haida Canoes. It’s absolutely fascinating when you begin to see the connections between indigenous peoples world-wide.

I then got to work with Skooker Broome Exhibition Designer on gallery preparations for (In) Visible. This was so much fun- I really loved seeing how MOA preps for their exhibits. I also got to work with Sean (the full time intern curator) at this time as our internships at MOA overlapped. The space that we were working on was about 10 times the size of the Haida Gwaii Museum’s largest gallery. I got to sit in on a meeting with Skooker and Karen about an exhibition that is in development. Skooker uses a design program in which you can walk through the gallery space and move objects on the walls to imagine how they would look.

The (In) Visible exhibition is now on display at MOA- I’m looking forward to seeing it when I return to Vancouver.

Screen shot 2015-11-25 at 1.09.02 PM
Photo from (In) Visible

Here at the Haida Gwaii Museum when we put on exhibitions we are the marketing team, the financial department, the educational team, the exhibition designers, mount makers and the wall painters. Being exposed to and working in a place like MOA is something I will never forget.

Thank-you to everyone who made this internship, this experience,  a reality.

While I was in Vancouver I made another major life decision. I had been offered an extension of my contract here at the Haida Gwaii Museum. I was honored and thrilled at the concept of continuing to learn about Haida culture, curating and living here on Haida Gwaii. However, I had been doing a lot of thinking about what I truly want out of life- where I see myself going and the things that I need to conquer in order to meet my goals.

As a result of all of this self-reflection I decided to complete my degree with a major in Criminology at Simon Fraser University. If you are confused about this specialization that’s understandable. Criminology was my first passion. I remember my mom being disgusted about what I was studying and me- while I was thrilled.

I’ve decided that we can have more than one passion, we can do more than one thing. Why limit yourself? I like art, I like curating, I like event organizing, I like marketing, I love criminology. I can do it all.

Why not? Life is short? I’m stubborn.

I am moving in 6 days. My last day working in this building is tomorrow- it has come up very quickly. I know I have made the right decisions. Leaving Haida Gwaii is hard. When I came to these islands I basically only had experience working retail and odd jobs. I’m leaving having had a career or two.

I am so grateful to Gwaalagaa Naay Corporation and the Haida Gwaii Museum for their support and encouragement of my ambitions.

I will be working on the occasional contract for the Haida Gwaii Museum while I’m in Vancouver and I will write a few more blogs here and there. I will also open this blog up to my co-workers (the amazing behind the scenes team) here at the Haida Gwaii Museum so you can follow all the happenings here.

Thank-you to everyone who has read this blog since I started it as a receptionist at the Haida Heritage Centre. I’ll be back to Haida Gwaii soon. This place will always have my heart.

Over and out.

This Blog is written by Michaela McGuire, former front desk assistant for the Haida Heritage Centre, former Project Officer for Gwaalagaa Naay Corporation, former Intern Curator at the Haida Gwaii Museum and unemployed student as of tomorrow evening.