By Marie-Paule Robitaille
Baraka Books (2014)
Review by Margaret MacKichan
This book details the history of collecting and exhibiting of Native American artifacts at the Musee de la Civilisation in Quebec, Canada. The book is organized into a series of essays by curators, collectors, and ethnographic scholars that document the changes which have occurred in museum practices over the hundreds of years since their earliest pieces were collected.
Of particular interest in this volume, is the emphasis on recent sharing of information with other institutions as a means to more fully understand the work, and the efforts the Musee de la Civilisation has made to engage and collaborate with aboriginal people across the museum spectrum. Needless to say, many advances have been made in attuning the scholar to the objects and their place in the lives of the original people. These observations are noted in the essays.
Journey to the Heart of the First Peoples Collections will also be of interest to art historians in the field, and the many people who have a personal interest in tribal arts. The volume, while formatted around the essays, includes high quality prints of a variety of objects, some of them rarely seen and perhaps never before published. In many cases the photograph is captioned with information regarding its construction, but also on the events around the collection of the item itself. Such details further enrich our understanding of the role the article played, and may continue to play, in the lives of the people who made it.
Margaret A. MacKichan, M.F.A., is the director of the Great Plains Art Institute at Sinte Gleska University.