Culture at the Centre: unprecedented exhibit comes to Museum of Anthropology at UBC

The new Museum of Anthropology exhibit, Culture at the Centre, brings together artwork, culture and language from six distinct First Nations.

Exhibit brings together work from six First Nations

The new exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC was made in collaboration with six First Nations cultural centres around B.C. (Matthew Parsons/CBC)

A new exhibit will be on display at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia starting Sunday.

Culture at the Centre showcases the work of five different Indigenous-run museums and community centres around British Columbia.

The exhibit — an unprecedented collaboration between MOA and the five organizations — highlights how these centres work to preserve and celebrate the culture and history of six distinct First Nations. 

Visitors will be able to see and experience the collected artwork, artifacts, languages and knowledge of the Musqueam, Squamish, Lil'wat, Heiltsuk, Nisg̱a'a and Haida peoples, all in one location for the first time.

Matthew Parsons gets a preview of a new show at the Museum of Anthropology which is the result of a remarkable collaboration. 14:58

"We're trying present in a way that is both engaging and illuminating," said Jill Baird, MOA's curator of education.

Among the exhibit sections full of sculptures and intricate craft work, MOA's guests will see six massive maps depicting the traditional territory of the First Nations.

Alison Pascal, the curator at the Squamish-Lil'wat Cultural Centre in Whistler, B.C., is sharing curator duties for the exhibit.

Two Lil'wat baskets, made by Alison Pascal's great-great-grandmothers are on display at the exhibit. (Matthew Parsons/CBC)

Pascal says the maps are incredibly important because they show how Indigenous people lived centuries ago.

The map reveals how her nation, the Lil'wat, lived not only in permanent major settlements, but also migrated to seasonal settlements.

"We utilized the entirety of our territory," said Pascal.

She said being able to access the different regions of the Lil'wat territory was integral to her people's civilization. Food and crafting materials were located in different areas, and because the Lil'wat were partially nomadic, their success revolved around the seasonal movement.

"It's not like one single area is disposable, it's all valuable and important to our people," she said.

The last section of the exhibit focuses on repatriation and reconciliation. On display is a traditional spindle whorl created by Coast Salish artist Aaron Nelson-Moody. The design of the spindle whorl depicts four eagles, their wings touching, symbolizing unity and teamwork.

Culture at the Centre runs from March 18 to Oct. 8.

With files from North by Northwest