New Exhibit at the MOA Ignites Memories
// Lead Scheitel

The Museum of Anthropology at UBC has showcased many types of exhibits over the years, from the photography of Man Ray, to Haida and aboriginal carvings and Inuit prints with a Japanese inspiration. All of their exhibits create a connection between the objects and the people who view them. However, the exhibit A Green Dress: Objects, Memory and the Museum delves into the deeper significance of objects themselves and explores their greater meaning in relation to memory.

The collection, which is showcased at the O’Brian Gallery, features a variety of objects, all from very different cultural backgrounds, including First Nations, Chinese, Finnish, and West African, to name a few. Photographs, slides, art installations, children’s drawings, ancient shoes, and recordings of lost Native languages are all used to show us memories related to the items. The exhibit explores the emotional connections we make with objects of our past. T

he show combined the creative minds of four curators: Karen Duffek, Krisztina Laszlo, Carol Mayer, and Susan Rowley. They all chose certain a variety of objects to put into the exhibition, all for different reasons. “

We were tying to get this mix of medium, a mix of contemporary and historical objects, to create connections. We were trying to get that breadth from the different cultures,” explains Duffek, on how they chose the artifacts that they wanted to use.

The green dress of the exhibit’s title was sewn specially for co-curator Mayer. It was crafted by Jocelyn Natugo, whose ancestors killed a missionary reverend on the South Pacific island Erromango. The island was said to be cursed since the murder of the reverend, and the green dress was made in order to be worn to a peace ceremony between the indigenous people and the missionaries on the island. In 2009, Mayer wore the dress to the peace ceremony, which raised the curse that plagued the island for 170 years.

“When we thought about naming this exhibit, it was easy to come with things that sounded kind of cheesy, like a long distance phone commercial or like a Hallmark card, so we thought we would just name it after one of the objects that has some kind of curiosity value for the public,” Duffek says.

The exhibit also aims to show how technology has changed the way that people share memories today. One of the mediums used was an old-fashioned slide projector, one that might be found in your grandmother’s attic.

“We wanted to speak to experiences of sitting in someone’s basement,” explains Krisztina Laszlo, who works in the archival department of the museum. “[We wanted to look at] how people used to share memories, and contrasting that to present day: how digital technology like Flickr sites and Facebook and everything is shared with so many people so quickly.”

A Green Dress is meant to compliment the Hiroshima exhibit, which opens at the MOA on Oct. 13. The Hiroshima exhibit features a collection of 48 photographs taken by Isiuchi Miyako of all the clothing and accessories left behind by the victims of the 1945 atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

“The Hiroshima exhibit has to do with objects of memory because Miyako is photographing these personal items and clothing that are at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum,” says Duffek. The work by Miyako is a very personal project, Duffek explains. “She’s looking at those objects that are the same age as her, as she was born just two years after the Hiroshima bomb.”

“What we are really trying to do is explore different types of memory,” Laszlo explains, “Because Hiroshima was such a tragic event, we wanted to give people another way to think about memory and not just as traumatic memories. There are memories that are happy, nostalgic, and inspiring.”

A Green Dress shows us that memories are made constantly, and explores the different emotions related to remembering and sharing in someone else’s experience. It can be as happy as seeing a family heirloom for the first time, like a First Nations noblewoman experienced when she saw objects taken from her family returned to her tribe two generations later. Her experience was captured in black and white photos and is part of the exhibit. It can also be as sad as seeing children’s sketches of stick men with guns depicting how war tore their homeland of El Salvador apart in the early 1980’s. Memory is made every moment, and this exhibit causes you to think of your own experiences and what objects make you remember the most.

// Leah Scheitel
// Illustration by JJ Brewis

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