The Museum of Vancouver (MOV) poses provocative questions about our perception of stories with Unbelievable – a new exhibition on display June 24 - September 24, 2017. Diving deep into the vaults of MOV, this quirky exhibition assembles iconic artifacts, storied replicas, and contested objects for a mind-bending exploration of the role stories play in defining lives and communities – and what happens when we question the tales we’ve long relied upon.
The first large Unbelievable object that visitors will encounter is the Thunderbird totem pole. It appeared in controversial filmmaker Edward Curtis’ 1906 work In the Land of the Head Hunters. The totem pole has since been replicated in fiberglass, as well as re-carved to stand in Stanley Park - but the original has been tucked away within MOV’s vaults.
Unbelievable will also include a search for other contemporary ‘totems’, each with contrasting stories about a point in time in Vancouver. These include the original ‘R’ from Arbutus Street’s ‘The Ridge’ sign (where a replica now adorns condos); a full-scale bronze-cast model of Stanley Park’s derivative Girl in a Wet Suit; and opposing and battling Quatchi costumes from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games - one an official costume, the other an anti-mascot built by protestors.
The artifacts will also illustrate the tangled threads of narrative around Vancouver’s relationship with First Nations communities. Pieces include a carving given to George Vancouver’s crew, a large mask of a bird depicting the European-brought disease of smallpox, and Pauline Johnson’s ‘Indigenous’ dress, a fantasy garment for a cultural celebrity with a vivid imagination.
Inspiration for Unbelievable originated last fall in the wake of the American election, which highlighted an astonishing aspect of human nature: people reject facts that don’t fit their story, even if the information is true. MOV concluded an exhibition exploring the notion of truth – including the museum’s role as one of Canada’s most trusted institutions – could not be more timely or relevant.
MOV presents Unbelievable
Dates: June 24 – September 24, 2017
Address: Museum of Vancouver 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver, BC
Photos: Museum of Vancouver Collection