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From the Archives: Man and his World Exhibition, 1969–70

Outside of the exhibition pavilion. MOA Archives, a042232c.

In 1968, after being inspired by MOA’s collection in Art of the Kwakiutl Indians, the Museum’s first catalogue, Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau invited MOA to present a major exhibition of its First Nations collection in Montreal. Displayed in the Man and his World pavilion, the exhibition would extend Expo 67’s legacy of public cultural displays. For MOA, which had vastly outgrown its small space in the basement of UBC’s Main Library by the late 1960s, this new exhibition would be the largest display of the Museum’s collection since the exhibition People of the Potlach, held at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1956.

Sculptures on display in the rotunda, including Bill Reid’s Bear. MOA Archives, a042242c.

MOA staff, including Audrey Hawthorn (MOA’s first curator) and designer Rudy Kovach, as well as UBC students, travelled to Montreal to install over 2,000 objects in the exhibition, which opened in July 1969. The exhibition proved popular and was held over to August of the following year.

The exhibition also included special guests during its run: Haida artist Robert Davidson was invited by MOA to come to Montreal and demonstrate his carving practice.

Haida artist Robert Davidson carving at the exhibit. MOA Archives, a042280c.

Davidson accepted this invitation and arranged for a cedar log to be shipped across the country. Bill Reid was living in Montreal at the time, and offered to fill in for Davidson on the weekends. Davidson and Reid closed the exhibition by holding a potlatch-like ceremony.

The public exposure and support that MOA gained as a result of the exhibition would be a major factor in the establishment of a new museum building on UBC’s campus, which was to be designed by Arthur Erickson and open in 1976.

To learn more about the history of the Museum, read this MOA Story about MOA’s first 70 years, and visit the Harry and Audrey Hawthorn Library + Archives’ online catalogue.