October 16th was an exciting day for the curators of the exhibition, c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city, as they were awarded the 2015 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Museums, by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The Governor General’s History Award is Canada’s top honour in the field of history. The award celebrates the best in Canadian achievements to ensure Canada’s national past has a vibrant presence in society today.
The winning exhibition is held at three institutions in Vancouver: the Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of Vancouver, and the Musqueam Cultural Centre. Each location displays a different exhibition on c̓əsnaʔəm, a 9000-year old village site that is now known as the neighbourhood of Marpole in Vancouver. c̓əsnaʔəm was first occupied almost 5000 years ago and became one of the largest of the Musqueam people’s ancient village sites approximately 2000 years ago. Generations of families lived at what was then the mouth of the Fraser River, harvesting the rich resources of the delta. Over the past 125 years, archaeologists, collectors, and treasure hunters have mined the c̓əsnaʔəm village and burial ground for belongings and ancestral remains.
“The collaboration between the organizations that created c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city highlights what can be achieved when museums work with communities to tell Canada’s history in innovative ways,” says John G. McAvity, CMA Executive Director and CEO. “This exhibition showcases the commitment of museums to work with communities and promotes the knowhow of Vancouver’s cultural institutions.”
Leona Sparrow states in the acceptance speech, “We are honoured to accept this award on behalf of the Musqueam Indian Band, Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Vancouver and University of Waterloo. For the Musqueam community, these exhibitions enable us to share our own history in our own way. The exhibitions demonstrate our community’s connection to our traditional territory, and how we continue the ways of our ancestors. The project represents a step forward in the relationships with our partner institutions. Your Excellence, the Canada’s History Society, and the Canadian Museums Association, we are truly grateful for your recognition of c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city project.”
The c̓əsnaʔəm exhibition team were also honoured with another award on October 26th by the Charles REDD Award for Exhibition Excellence presented by the Western Museums Association.
The three exhibitions will run until January 2016 and remain as part of the permanent exhibition schedule at the Museum of Vancouver.