Museum of Anthropology celebrates first 50

Museum a bridge to community: director

by Susan Stern
Staff writer

Canada Post stamp to be released March 9 commemorates MOA's 50th Anniversary

One of the most rewarding aspects of the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), says director Ruth Phillips, is that it reaches, teaches and brings together students, visitors and members of First Nations and other cultural communities.

The largest teaching museum in Canada, MOA has earned an international reputation for excellence.

"MOA's core and its uniqueness is that it's a teaching museum integrated in many ways into UBC's teaching and research programs in First Nations and world cultures," Phillips says.

Courses in museum studies are offered through the Anthropology and Sociology Dept. Phillips says the museum's collections and information about them are a vital resource for research and instruction in as many as 20 other university courses.

Students from Anthropology, History and Classics to Asian Studies, Fine Arts, Education and English conduct research at the museum.

As part of their training, MOA provides students with internship opportunities and part-time work in a variety of museum practices, giving hands-on experience in collections management, public programming and conservation.

"The programs and resources provided here prepare students to enter and contribute to the work of museums around the world," says Phillips.

The museum offers more than 100 public programs annually. They include guided tours, school programs, theatrical and musical performances, lectures and workshops.

Some 50 students are employed at the museum each year. Phillips says there are plans to hire a student from the English Dept.'s new co-op program.

She is also proud of MOA's Native Youth program, which trains up to six native high school students every summer as tour guides.

"Experience at MOA has led a number of these students to go on to train for careers in museums and other cultural institutions," says Phillips.

MOA also has a long record of supporting young native contemporary artists who make paintings, masks and button blankets.

The Musqueam Education program is a new initiative that began last year. It introduces elementary students to the history, culture and contemporary reality of the First Nations Musqueam community.

This year the program has expanded to include classroom teachers and community resource people on site at Musqueam.

Planning is also underway to create a master's program in Museum and Curatorial Studies. MOA is developing the program in partnership with the Belkin Art Gallery, and the departments of Fine Arts and Anthropology and Sociology. The program, which is intended to be in place by 2001, will be the first of its kind in western Canada.

There is a great need today to share information collected from First Nations that is kept in museums, libraries and archives and inaccessible to them, Phillips says.

"We have a moral obligation to make the collections available to First Nations," she says. "Traditionally, native artifacts were collected with the intent to preserve and save them from turning up in museums outside Canada."

There is much to celebrate in the diversity of the MOA. To mark its golden 50th anniversary, there is free admission for faculty, staff and students all year and a 10 per cent discount in the gift shop.

"The most important thing for people to remember is that MOA belongs to the community," says Phillips.

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