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Monday, May 16 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
(General Session: Confronting the Unexpected) Conserving Culture First: The 2013 Fire at the U’mista Cultural Centre

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The U’mista Cultural Centre is a small institution with a big reputation. Located in the small community of Alert Bay on an isolated island off the coast of western British Columbia, the centre was created in 1979, to house the potlatch materials repatriated from Museums across North America. These articles of regalia had been seized from their west coast communities in 1922 after a large potlatch was held in the area. At the time, the Potlatch Ban made these gatherings illegal under Canadian Law and participants were given the difficult choice of either relinquishing their regalia or serving jail time. In the summer of 2013 there was an accidental fire at the Centre in its Potlatch Gallery, where all the repatriated materials are displayed and stored. Almost immediately, conservators from three coastal museums: the Royal British Columbia Museum, the UBC Museum of Anthropology, and the Museum at Campbell River rallied to help support the staff at the Centre and help with the immediate recovery after the fire. This relationship has continued with assisting the Centre to form a long-term recovery plan, and the treatment of the objects over time. In this talk we will discuss the events of the fire and recovery, touching on some of the unexpected challenges faced, the importance of community involvement in the decision making process, and the importance of this collection to its community. The U’mista Cultural Centre is not a museum, and so the choices made about the recovery and treatment of these objects may be surprising to some.

avatar for Beth Boyce

Beth Boyce

Curator and Education Manager, Museum at Campbell River
Beth Boyce is the Curator of the Museum at Campbell River located in Campbell River BC. It is a regional museum representing North Vancouver Island and surrounding areas on the west coast of British Columbia. She is also an objects conservator with a Master’s Degree of Art Conservation... Read More →
avatar for George Field

George Field

Objects Conservator, Royal British Columbia Museum
George Field is an objects conservator with the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria BC and has been for the past 27 years. He works with the varied natural and human history collections of a provincial museum and enjoys the troubleshooting that comes with it. He specializes in the conservation... Read More →
avatar for Heidi Swierenga

Heidi Swierenga

Senior Conservator, UBC Musuem of Anthropology
Heidi Swierenga is an objects conservator in Vancouver BC specializing in the care of cultural belongings. She is interested in the conflict between the cultural use of indigenous works and their preservation. She is also involved in teaching conservation and gives courses in the... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 4:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
Room 210 AB/EF