A museum for the ages
Fostering Canadian connections with Internet

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 25/99) - The Canadian Museum of Civilization, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in June, is the largest museum in Canada.

"We're located on a 9.6-hectare site in Hull, on the shores of the Ottawa River opposite Parliament Hill. The building covers 100,000 square metres," says senior media relations officer Rachael Duplisea.

Duplisea further explains that there are two buildings in fact, one housing the public exhibitions with 16,500 square metres of display space. The second building houses the office space, 5,000,000 artifacts and conservation labs.

The mandate of the museum is to foster in all Canadians a sense of their common identity while promoting an understanding of the cultural diversity in Canadian society.

The First Peoples Hall and the Archaeology Hall have a multitude of comprehensive exhibits on wide-ranging First Peoples themes.

"Certainly the research component tradition has always focused a great deal on the native cultures of Canada," says Duplisea.

"The museum has an awful lot of work that goes on with various native communities. We have a memorandum of understanding signed with a pretty good number of them. We do specific exhibits, obviously."

"For many years our anthropologists have been out and doing fieldwork in the communities. The connections are really strong and woven on different levels," she says.

On Saturday, the museum's recent exhibit was launched: Emergence from the Shadow: First Peoples Photographic Perspective.

The exhibit juxtaposes photographic images of First Peoples, past and present through images taken by staff anthropologists with the former Geological Survey of Canada and of modern-day First Peoples photographers.

By mingling the photographs of Shelley Niro, Greg Staats, Mary Anne Barkhouse, Greg Hill, Rosalie Favell and Barry Ace with the historical works, a new link was formed between past and present.

For us in the North, who aren't planning a trip down to Hull any time soon, there's a great way to access the extensive selection of exhibits offered by the museum. It's called a virtual museum.

As Internet sites go, this one (www.civilization.ca) is quite easy to navigate, despite its size. The museum is currently working to revamp it.

"We're going to improve it and enhance it to facilitate navigation so that you can more easily find things," says Duplisea.

The organizing principle of the virtual museum, which has existed since 1994, is an actual building. Where you might wander through the enormous building in Hull, here you wander through virtual halls and ride virtual elevators over a sprawling 10,000 pages that make up the site.

Of special interest are the numerous exhibits relating to the NWT and Nunavut.

The list in incredibly long, but here are a few examples: The Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic: From Ancient Times to 1902; Stones Unturned, in which the clothing traditions of the Copper and Caribou Inuit, the NLaka'pamux and Dene are explored; Storytelling: The Art of Knowledge, in which the Inuvialuit storytelling traditions, among others, are described; Iqqaippa: Celebrating Inuit Art, 1948-1970.

In the Archaeology Hall, one section holds Retracing an Archaeological Expedition to Canada's Northwest Territories. Yet another exhibit: Places of Power: Objects of Veneration in the Canadian Arctic.

All new exhibits will have a Web component, including Emergence from the Shadow, though it should be noted that the Web pages may come a few weeks after a launch.

Duplisea adds that there are thousands of sites linked to theirs in various fields, such as history, culture and art.