39th Annual Meeting- Objects Morning Session, June 2, “When You Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk: Collections Access at the UBC Museum of Anthropology During the Renewal Project,” by Shabnam Honarbakhsh et al.

This talk, presented by Shabnam Honarbakhsh, continued with the theme of the two previous talks of museums increasing the accessibility of their collections and collaborating with indigenous or source communities.

Ms. Honarbakhsh began by describing the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology (UBCMOA) to the audience. The UBCMOA is located in Vancouver, B.C. and is composed of 37,000 objects from diverse cultures. Her talk centered on the museum’s “Renewal Project- A Partnership of Peoples,” a building renovation project that increased the size of gallery, storage, laboratory, and research spaces with the goal of making the collections more accessible and supporting community activities. At the same time, the “Collections Research Enhancement Project” was also implemented, wherein objects went through a several step process of being surveyed, digitized, mounted, packed, moved, and installed. Objects were tracked through the entire process using a bar code system and Ms. Honarbakhsh mentioned that the only time the collections were not accessible was during the packing/moving phase. She briefly discussed how the objects progressed through the various steps, noting that object mounts were designed with source community involvement, but the process is also explained quite well on the museum’s website at http://www.moa.ubc.ca/crep/index.html.  The Renewal Project and Collections Enhancement Project were immense undertakings but Ms. Honarbakhsh reiterated the importance of the collections remaining accessible as much as possible. In further reference to the collection’s accessibility, she directed the audience to MOACAT, online access of the collections at http://collection-online.moa.ubc.ca, and the Reciprocal Research Network (RRN), a collaborative tool providing online access to Northwest Coast items, at http://www.rrnpilot.org.

To illustrate the UBCMOA’s work with indigenous or source communities, Ms. Honarbakhsh discussed a consultation with a community of Northwest Coast basket makers and the ritual bathing of a metal sculpture of Vishnu for a Hindu ceremony. The collaborations and subsequent access to the objects were viewed essential in building relationships with the respective communities and as a way for the source communities to remain connected with their culture. In both cases, Ms. Honarbakhsh brought up the topics of acceptable risk and allowable damage while also noting the importance of the communities being able to handle the objects and perform ceremonies considered vital to the object’s well-being. Learning about the UBCMOA’s continuous efforts of making their collections more accessible and collaborating with various communities was quite inspiring.