Posted by: Rachel Roy on October 27, 2015 at 11:50 am

Input from Aboriginal community members is integral to the process of creating usable and culturally meaningful built spaces for people in their daily lives.

At MOV’s Built City Talk on October 8, architects Lola Sheppard, Luugigyoo Patrick Reid Stewart, and city planner and analyst William Trousdale provided insightful thoughts on their work with aboriginal communities. Most revealing were their ideas on how architecture has a lot to learn from the communities they serve.  Lola and William spoke humbly of careful listening and looking that needs to take place. This involves adapting and translating the ideas discussed with aboriginal communities into built form. Central to their discussion was thinking about how people will use buildings over a season, and the best positioning for building entrances and overall structures on the land.



Lola acknowledged that the history of Nunavut is immersed in colonialism which can be visibly seen in the southern architecture of the buildings—she emphasizes that this was not nearly as dynamic as the culture it was trying to serve.

Lola reinforced this point with a powerful message voiced by Sheila Watt-Cloutier from The Right to be Cold (2006):

“We are an adaptable people. We’ve had to be. We’ve weathered this storm of modernization fairly well - going from dog teams to snowmobiles, and flying jumbo jets and going from igloo huts to permanent homes, and of course, going from our environment - which is our supermarket - to now having supermarket-like stores in communities - all within a few decades. This has not been without consequences.”



As Patrick explained, the federal government tried to impose Canadian culture and buildings on the landscape. This is evident in the southern style architecture that still dominates many parts of Nunavut.



As an architect who is proudly representing his aboriginal heritage, Patrick sees indigenous cultural practices, such as basket weaving, as inspirational concepts for architects building for and with First Nations communities as it speaks to their identity. Patrick is an architect who acts as a facilitator and designs with and for aboriginal communities.

Similarly, Lola engages in careful listening and learning about the land with communities, and views this as crucial for developing new architectural structures for people in Nunavut.

Lola views the Inuit culture as incredibly dynamic – people in Nunavut are living in a radically changing region climatically, economically, and culturally. For instance, youth learn how to hunt with their elders, as well as engage online using social media tools and technology to create and share their own hip-hop music. Lola suggests that this forms part of an emerging urbanism in Nunavut, and she continues to contemplate the future role of architecture in this.



Lola poses this intriguing question: Can architecture be used as a tool of empowerment for aboriginal communities in the Arctic? Through a project she worked on with students, Nunavut-based organizations, Inuit community members, local artists, and architects based in the north, future spaces are imagined for Nunavut cities and towns to try and address their daily needs.

MOV invites you to come explore architecture’s future role for Nunavut in Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15 until December 13th, 2015.

Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15 has been organized and curated by Lateral Office, with the support of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts. It is presented and coordinated by the Winnipeg Art Gallery with assistance from the Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage, and presenting sponsor Manulife.

Le cabinet Lateral Office a dirigé et organisé l’exposition intitulée Adaptations à l’Arctique : Nunavut à 15 ans, avec l’aide de l’Institut royal d’architecture du Canada, et du Conseil des arts du Canada. Le Musée des beaux-arts de Winnipeg se chargera de la tournée avec le soutien du Programme d’aide aux musées du ministère du Patrimoine canadien, et du commanditaire principal Manuvie.


Posted by: Myles Constable on October 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Today was a very special day for the team that created c̓əsnaʔəm, The City Before the City. The collaborative series of exhibitions was recognized at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, where the curators were presented with  the 2015 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Museums, by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston.

The award recognizes individuals or institutions that have made remarkable contributions to a better knowledge of Canadian history. This year’s winning project is c̓əsnaʔəm, The City Before the City. The exhibition tells the story of c̓əsnaʔəm, one of the largest ancient Musqueam villages and burial sites upon which Vancouver was built. It was jointly curated by the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) in collaboration with the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC, Musqueam First Nation, and Susan Roy from the University of Waterloo.

“Winning such a prestigious national award is a testament to the hard work, creativity and perseverance of the curatorial teams,” says Nancy Noble, CEO of MOV. “This important exhibition has allowed the Museum to confront its own colonial past, acknowledging the actions of our predecessors and hopefully, in some small way, reconciling the many misconceptions about the Musqueam people, their history and their continued contributions to Vancouver and Canadian society.”

The three-location exhibition intends to generate public discussion about indigenous history, and to raise awareness of the significance of c̓əsnaʔəm for the Musqueam people and for Vancouver. The ancient village of c̓əsnaʔəm was founded about 5,000 years ago at what was then the mouth of the Fraser—the southern border of today’s Marpole neighbourhood.

“c̓əsnaʔəm was a place where families lived and put their people to rest and was a sophisticated society. That’s why the exhibit is called ‘The City Before the City,’ says Jordan Wilson of the MOA and co-curator of the exhibition. “All too often there’s a picture painted of these villages as quite small and primitive, but in fact it was quite a large site, and the Musqueam people played a significant role in shaping the City of Vancouver.”

“Museums are no longer just passive buildings that store old objects. They play an active role in sharing new knowledge,” says Janet Walker, President and CEO of Canada’s History Society, which administers the award. “c̓əsnaʔəm, The City Before the City is a perfect example of how a museum exhibition can counter an existing narrative—that Vancouver is a young city of immigrants—and replace it with a more truthful version of events. In this way, museums help shape our future as well as our past.”

The joint exhibition opened earlier this year at the Museum of Vancouver, the Museum of Anthropology and the Musqueam Cultural Centre, and continues through January 2016. Each location explores different aspects of c̓əsnaʔəm, through artifacts—collected mainly in the 1920s and ‘30s—and new technologies such as 3-D printing.

You can find more information about the exhibition at

Posted by: Myles Constable on September 4, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Since April 23, more than 30,000 visitors to the Museum of Vancouver have had the exciting and astonishing experience of seeing Stefan Sagmeister: The Happy Show in person (a few people didn't actually like it).

With all those visitors, came crazy numbers of social media posts. Thousands of pictures - of gumballs, yellow walls, a giant monkey, digital spider webs, and people riding the stationary bike with a huge neon sign - have filled the people we follow's feeds.

Check out a sampling of those shots below...

Posted by: Myles Constable on August 14, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Lively Objects brings together artworks that vibrate with mechanical, digital, and magical forces. Installations hidden throughout the Museum’s history galleries awaken our fascination with objects that come to life. The following works will on display through October 12, 2015.


Phone Safe 2 (2015) by Garnet Hertz

Phone Safe 2 is a custom-built safety deposit box that invites people to publicly and voluntarily deposit mobile phones for a set period of time. In doing so, they commit to a short separation from their ubiquitous digital companions.


Topographic Table (2013) by Germaine Koh

Topographic Table recreates the contours of the mountains north of Vancouver. Sensors and Internet-connected electronics embedded in the table’s frame cause it to tremble in response to nearby vibrations and news about earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest. This piece of furniture models the geology and the psychic condition of living near the Cascadia fault line.


Silent Spring (2008) by Wendy Coburn

Silent Spring is a bronze replica of a pesticide sprayer that Coburn found in her neighbourhood. The artist has etched the names of loved ones on the sprayer – a found object re-cast as weapon, monument, and talisman. The sculpture takes its name from Rachel Carson’s 1962 text Silent Spring, which warned of the dangers of synthetic pesticides.


Fable for Tomorrow (2008) by Wendy Coburn

Silhouettes of insects swarm over the imploring bodies of two Victorian ceramic babies. This poignant work by Wendy Coburn is named Fable For Tomorrow after the first chapter of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring – an allegory describing a rural village that falls prey to a strange silence as white dust covers the countryside.


Phantom House (2010) by Judith Doyle / Technical assistance: Ian Murray

After the sudden death of her mother and father, Judith Doyle began building models of her family home in game engines and virtual environments. Phantom House is a ghostly suburban dwelling, constructed in SecondLife. The luminous structure is suspended somewhere between real and virtual, remembered and forgotten, inhabited and abandoned.


Splish Splash One (1974) by Norman White

This prototype for a large light mural commissioned for the foyer of CBC’s Vancouver offices simulates raindrops falling on the surface of a pond. It is an early example of an artistic exploration of the complex effects that emerge from the simple lifelike system of a cellular automaton – a light/logic grid in which each cell is programmed to switch on or off in relation to its neighbours.


Go Go Gloves (2005) by Kate Hartman

Put these gloves on and, like a digital puppeteer, you will be able to control the movement of the dancers on screen. With images drawn from 1960s McCall Needlework & Crafts magazine, Go-Go Gloves pays homage to the history of women’s “handiwork” and draws attention to the ways in which the female body is manipulated through fashion.


End of Empire (2011) by Simone Jones and Lance Winn

Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire is a single shot of the Empire State Building that lasts eight hours and five minutes. In End of Empire Simone Jones and Lance Winn revisit this iconic film post-9/11 and the 2008 financial collapse. A custom-built machine projects a video image of the Empire State Building onto the gallery wall, eventually revealing its disappearance from the Manhattan skyline with an eerie, mechanical neutrality.

Device for the Elimination of Wonder (2012-) by Steve Daniels

This simple kinetic system is obsessed with quantifying its environment. A metallic bob takes measurements, which the device renders in grey scale, continuously dropping pages of data to the floor below. This single-minded machine inhabits the gallery with a useless intensity.


Posted by: Myles Constable on June 2, 2015 at 5:10 pm

The Canadian Committee on Public History awarded its 5th annual Public History Prize Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in Ottawa. The winning project emerged from a curatorial partnership between the Museum of Vancouver, Museum of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, and Musqueam Nation. The collaboration culminated with the creation of əsnaʔәm: the city before the city, a multi-site exhibition project.

This multi-disciplinary, community-based Indigenous research project resulted in a series of three museum exhibitions (all currently on display) at the Museum of Vancouver (2015-2020), Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (2015-2016), and Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Centre (2015-2016).

c̓əsnaʔәm: the city before the city examines the history of Vancouver from the point of view of the Musqueam First Nation. It brings a critical history of city building, colonialism and dispossession, museum collecting practices, and Indigenous activism to public audiences. The project also engages many varied groups in discussions about conflicting and complex interpretations of Indigenous history and heritage sites as well as current debates about heritage and development in the city.

As Musqueam cultural advisor Larry Grant explains, “c̓əsnaʔәm: the city before the city aims at ‘righting history’ by creating a space for Musqueam to share their knowledge, culture and history and to highlight the community’s role in shaping the City of Vancouver.”

“We are thrilled that the committee has recognized this project as an example of innovative scholarship and public engagement,” says Susan Roy, historian at the University of Waterloo and MOV guest curator.

The award recognizes work that achieves high standards of original research, scholarship, and presentation; brings an innovative public history contribution to its audience; and serves as a model for future work, advancing the field of public history in Canada.

Upon accepting the award in Ottawa, Roy shared, "The c̓əsnaʔәm exhibition team is honoured to receive this acknowledgement that recognizes the importance of developing highly collaborative curatorial practices to reflect and promote new understanding of Indigenous history in Canada."

More information about the c̓əsnaʔәm: the city before the city exhibitions can view found here:

More information about past Public History Prize winners can be viewed here:

Posted by: Myles Constable on May 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

The Happy Show asked "How Happy Are You? The results are in...

There's a definite trend towards the high end of the graph here, with #10 being the first tube to be cleaned out. The gumball machines were refilled today, so we can start this experiment over again. What do these indications of our happiness mean? Exhibition designer Stefan Sagmeister sheds some light on Vancouver's overall happiness levels (remember this report?), and feeling like a '10.'

Below is an excerpt from Sagmeister's interview with Vancouver Review Media...

VRM: The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Your show opens in the same week a study is reported to show that Vancouver is the unhappiest city in the country!

Sagmeister: I saw that too and I understand that the research was pretty good, meaning that it had been conducted by proper people with proper methods. But the interpretation of it, I thought, was a joke. If you just read down to the fifth or sixth line it shows that the average person in Vancouver feels like a 7.8.

I have a lot of data on myself from the last six years using exactly the same system (of measuring people’s happiness on a scale of 0 to 10). If I had a 7.8 week, well, that was a damn fantastic week, an excellent week! So that there would be any complaints about “Oh my god! We are unhappy because we are only 7.8 on an average!” is ridiculous. Secondly, they were complaining that only 30% of people in Vancouver feel like a 9 or 10. I mean, who the fuck feels like a 9 or a 10? I don’t know anybody who feels like a 9 or 10 on an average.

In a period when I was on drugs and had fallen deeply in love I had several “10” days in a row, but this was a very particular and singular time in my life. I don’t know anybody who could say of them selves that they feel like a 10 for any prolonged period. But to me all this stuff is inconsequential. The fact that some people in some town in Quebec feel 0.3 points better or whatever, is immaterial. At the same time I do understand the problem of if you’re young, and the real estate costs are so beyond you that you can’t aspire to it, then that’s a real problem.

Read the full post here.

Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on May 15, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Museums like to show off their collections to the public. It’s rarely the other way around. And yet, the Museum of Vancouver is now scouting for the nifty, funky, unique private collections in the region for an upcoming exhibition.

Since beginning the search I’ve had several conversations with some incredible local collectors. A few months ago, I came across Lyanne Smith’s collections on Vancouver transit history. Listening to her talking about her collection was mesmerizing. I got a crash course on urban history using the lens of public transit from the perspective of someone who knew the biz firsthand. Below is a short Q&A with Lyanne. We’re just warming up here! There will be more on Lyanne and her accomplices (a tight network of local transit historians and collectors).

Please continue to check our blog. We’ll be providing updates on the exhibition planning process, featuring more collector profiles and teasing out some of the larger themes that come up every time we ask the question: why do people collect?

Viviane Gosselin: How would you describe your collection?

Lyanne Smith: My collection is an assortment of transit memorabilia from the Vancouver/Lower Mainland areas.  The bulk of the collection consists of historical documentation from each of the operating companies, including National Electric Tramway & Lighting Company, BC Electric (BCE), BC Hydro, Metro Transit, BC Transit, SkyTrain, Translink and Coast Mountain Bus Company. Over the years, I’ve collected several thousands of items.

VG: Why did you start collecting?

LS: I started driving a bus with BC Hydro in 1975 and began collecting various pieces of literature about the transit system at that point.  The same year, my parents gave me two “Reddy Kilowatt” items used in BC Electric (BCE) promotional campaigns in the 1950s.  Since BCE was the forerunner of the company I was working for, they thought I would like these pieces. It kind of kicked off my collection.  My collecting became an addiction after I met several of the old conductors/motormen from BCE in 1990 during the centennial celebrations. Having met these transit pioneers, the collection took an even more personal look at Vancouver’s transit history. In some ways I felt responsible for preserving the memory of men and women who dedicated a big part of their lives in the service of public transportation. Collecting is an emotional thing for me: I get so excited when I pick up a piece I hadn’t seen before! I want to know the whole story behind it.

VG: What kind of collector are you, how do you go about collecting?

LS: I focus on fare/transit tickets, the Buzzer, employee magazines, and promotional material, but I also have coin changers, transfer punches, tokens, and other interesting pieces related to that industry. I was given a lot of items from men and women who had worked with the transit system.  I also had one antique dealer who looked for unusual pieces for me. I’ve always been very strategic about going to specific antique stores and shows as well.

VG: What are some of your favourite collection items?

LS: Two of my favourites are the “Reddy Kilowatt” pieces my parents gave me: my father’s tie tack (see below) and my mother’s earrings.  

Another favourite is the rarest piece in my collection:  one of the only -- if not the only -- remaining ticket from the National Electric Tramway and Lighting Company. This company opened in 1890 and was the precursor of BC Electric. (see below)

VG: Looking at your collection of transit archives, what do you think people living in this region today can learn from that history?

LS: They will quickly realize that politics have always shaped the development of transit systems; Vancouver is no exception. Lack of funding, increased user fares, and the nature of expansions have always been at the centre of debates these past 100 years.  When people start delving into the historical literature and primary sources on Vancouver transit, they can see that every decade or two, new ideas were introduced for addressing those issues, so that the system could be maintained and expanded; it’s very typical of any transit system.  The thing I would like people to remember about the history of transit in Greater Vancouver is the front line employees who made the system run.  Without them, there would be no transit system in the Greater Vancouver area.

Posted by: Myles Constable on May 8, 2015 at 3:55 pm

It's been a rather thrilling time to work at the Museum of Vancouver. Not only have we launched an exhibition about one of the most important stories in Vancouver's history - c̓əsnaʔəm - but then we brought one of the most prolific designers in the world - Stefan Sagmesiter - to launch The Happy Show and give a few presentations.

After overseeing the finishing touches on the exhibition installation, talking to the media, writing on the walls and bathroom stalls, Sagmeister welcomed MOV Members and special guests at our opening reception.

On April 23, Sagmeister with friend (and local designer) Marian Bantjes had a conversation about design. This event was co-presented with the Graphic Designers of Canada, BC Chapter and moderated by Mark Busse. See video below.

Later that day, Sagmeister gave a lecture "On Happiness" which provided additional details behind The Happy Show and insight about his quest to better understand his happiness. Video to come.

Happy days indeed!

Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on May 7, 2015 at 10:44 am

Call to Collectors for Upcoming Exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver

We want to know about your collection, the idea behind it and how it all started.

The Museum of Vancouver is working on a temporary exhibition project that will feature Vancouver-based collectors and their collections. The museum wants to explore the mindset of these passionate “hunters and gatherers” and showcase their favourite pieces.

The collections might focus on Vancouver but they don’t have to. We are interested in learning how the collections came to be and what they bring to the lives of the people who create them. We are looking for interesting, beautiful, rare, unconventional collections: small, big, noisy, musical, historical, digital, analogue – surprise us!

This project will generate new discussion about the future of collecting, and the role of private collectors as memory keepers and makers.

Please fill out this form (PDF) and email back to Viviane Gosselin:

The deadline for submitting your collection profile is September 30. 2015.

Photo above from Lyanne Smith's collection.

Posted by: Myles Constable on May 4, 2015 at 4:59 pm

The Museum of Vancouver has received an abundance of media coverage of the newest exhibition, Stefan Sagmeister: The Happy Show. Take a look at the previews and reviews below:

CBC's Andrew Chang takes a walk through the exhibition just before the Opening Reception.

"The Happy Show at the Museum of Vancouver will leave you smiling." The Georgia Straight's Amanda Siebert explores The Happy Show and upcoming events. Full story here.

Maike Evers from Novus TV visited the Museum of Vancouver to check out The Happy Show and interviewed Gregory Dreicer.

Stefan Sagmeister tours Shaw Go! Westcoast through The Happy Show exhibition.

Dawn Chubai from Breakfast Television visited the Museum to chat with Aaron Weidman from UBC's Happy Lab about the Psychology of Happiness, and MOV Director of Curatorial and Engagement Gregory Dreicer; she even rode the stationary bike to power the wall of neon! Weidman will be leading a Talk & Tour of the exhibition, June 4, Drecier will lead a Talk & Tour, August 6

Stefan Sagmeister visited Breakfast Television studio to chat with Riaz Meghji about happiness and the exhibition.

Gregory Dreicer speaks about The Happy Show on CKNW's 'Drex Live'

Margaret Gallagher from CBC's The Early Edition (April 22) interviewed Stefan Sagmeister about The Happy Show. Listen here.

Kevin Griffin from The Vancouver Sun (April 22) interviewed Stefan Sagmeisiter about The Happy Show. Stefan discribes the design and function of what to expect as you walk through the show in corralation to happiness, “It’s a subject that clearly many people are interested in,” he said. “We’ve designed the show so that you can walk through it and pick and choose and see something in 15 minutes. If those 15 minutes seem interesting, you can easily stay three hours.” Read more here.

The Province interview betweeen reporter Stuart Derdeyn and The Happy Show designer Stefan Sagmeister (April 22)

"At at time when polls suggest Vancouver is one of the least happy places in Canada, The Happy Show should be somewhere to have a much-needed laugh. Well, there or reading real estate listings and then playing with a mortgage calculator to see how many generations it will take to pay off that single family home." Full Article here.

Ecert from Monecristo Magazine's Whitney Millar article The Happy Show: Stefan Sagmiester's lessons in joy. (April 23)

"A glance at the gumball levels helps each of us find our place in a collective level. And suddenly, we’re not so alone." she says. Read more here.

John Burns from Vancouver Magazine talks with curator Gregory Driecer about The Happy Show and The Museum of Vancouver. (April 24)

"The show ties into larger themes for the museum, and for Dreicer personally, who arrived last summer to discover the dispiriting “Connections and Engagement” survey results from the Vancouver Foundation. His responses: this show, and a second, planned for 2016, that will “enable and help people to connect. But also get people to understand why connection is important: if an earthquake happens, are you expecting an ambulance just to drive up? If people can come away from interacting with the museum knowing why to connect and how, and having the opportunity to do so, then I really will be happy." Full article here.

Exert from Brian Patterson from 24 Hours talk with Gregory Driecer about The Happy Show and Vancouverites happiness (April 23) 

"If there is one takeaway Dreicer hopes to impart to visitors, it’s that, “if we want to, we can take control of our own happiness. We can make a difference for ourselves and for other people at the same time.” Read more here.

Metro News Vancouver Thandi Fletcher's excert from Tuesday April 21st article talking to Stefan Sagmesiter about The Happy Show.

At the time, Sagmeister, who has documented his struggles with alcohol and drugs, weight gain and depression, said he was at an emotional low point in his life dealing with the death of his mom and the end of an 11-year relationship.“It was sort of ironic that just as I started to work on this happiness subject, my own life was actually going down,” he said. Read more here.

Westender's Sabrina Furminger discusses happiness with designer of The Happy Show Stefan Sagmeister (April 21)

“You have things that are very short in length of time, that last maybe a few seconds, that would be more in the way of joy or bliss or possibly an orgasm, and then there are medium lengths of experience, like when you spend a Sunday afternoon with a paper at the park. And you have very long experiences, possibly lifelong, like finding the thing that you’re good for in life, fulfilling your potential,” says Sagmeister.

“These three things all fall under the giant terminology of happiness, but really have little to do with each other. If you think of an orgasm, it really has nothing to do with finding what you’re good for in life.” Read more here.

Cheryl Rossi of The Vancouver Courier walks through The Happy Show April 21 

"A companion exhibit called #makesmehappy saw 10 Vancouverites, including writer Amber Dawn, singer-songwriter Veda Hille and hip-hop artist Prevail select an object from the museum’s vaults that sparked happy memories, write a blurb about it and issue an immediate call to action, such as call your mother." Read more here.

More reviews:

"If you’re in the Vancouver area pick a date between now and September 7th and make a trip to the Museum of Vancouver.  It’s the perfect day out, and guaranteed to make you happy enough to dance! It worked on us!!" - SpandyAndy

"All in all, it's a must-see and fantastic show, especially for cloudy days like today." - Lara Smith / Georgia Straight

"The Happy Show is definitely one of my favourite exhibits. I absolutely recommend you check it out for yourself." -Ruuella

"I may not have exited the museum that evening with a pre­scrip­tion for hap­pi­ness, but I did have many new ideas to con­sider. My friend and I stood in a sur­pris­ing sum­mer rain shower and con­tem­plated what bus route to take back to our rented apart­ments. A yel­low taxi approached and with­out much delib­er­a­tion, we hailed it. For a few dol­lars each we got to forgo a long damp ride on tran­sit. As I watched our wet, bor­ing city glide past from the back seat, I was happy. For a while, anyway." - Eleanor Radford / SadMag

"interactive, informative and fun... With  Gum-ball machines which you get a free gum by displaying how happy you are. A bicycle in the middle of a great big room on a platform, which you can ride and a huge display runs slogans of inspiration in front of you. Seek discomfort to achieve your goals. You only grow when your uncomfortable! In a word Brilliant! We haven't had this kind of mind jogging exhibit ever." - Ron P. via Yelp

"I’ve spent hours thinking about his proposition that people should take five years of their retirement and intersperse them into their working lives in order to contribute more to society. I also enjoyed his analysis of why we remember negative things more clearly than positive things and how that affects what we consider 'news.'" - Sabina  / Victim to Charm


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