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From the Archives: Designing a Museum

In addition to its extensive object collection, the Museum of Anthropology also houses a valuable collection of archival material. MOA’s Archives is part of the Audrey and Harry Hawthorn Library and Archives, a research facility within the Museum that is open to anyone to use. The Archives hold one-of-a-kind primary sources that document the history of the Museum, its collections and its exhibits, as well as the records of important individuals from outside MOA, including anthropologists, artists, linguists and authors. Material in the Archives dates back to the 1700s through to the present day, and includes a wide range of materials: textual records, architectural drawings, glass-plate negatives and digital files, just to name a few.

Here’s a small taste of the material available in our archival collection. Visit our online catalogue anytime to learn more about these items and to explore the rest of the material available in the MOA Archives.

The extensive seismic upgrades of MOA’s Great Hall currently underway mark a new era in the Museum’s architectural history. Looking back to the building’s first stages, we can trace how the Museum’s unique architecture originally came to be. Many records related to the building can be found in the MOA Archives—large drawers full of architectural drawings that trace changes as plans developed, and boxes of correspondence and meeting minutes that detail how and why things ended up as they did. Here, we’ve selected just a few images to provide a snapshot of the different ways that MOA’s famous and much-loved building was conceptualized in the early 1970s.

Sketch of a Museum Entrance

Sketch of Museum Entrance, March 1973. By Rudy Kovach. MOA General Media collection, a041682.

Rudy Kovach worked as a design consultant for MOA, and his role included designing the Museum’s exhibition spaces. He drew sketches such as this one to illustrate his design ideas and those of the architect. This particular drawing shows a proposed entrance to the Museum. It is fairly similar to the one we see at MOA today, though the carved wooden doors shown here—known as the ’Ksan Doors—have since been moved inside to the Museum’s lobby.

Model of a New Museum

Model of New Museum, ca. 1972-73. By Arthur Erickson Architects. Harry Hawthorn fonds, a039902.

When the building was designed in the 1970s, the architects did not yet have computer programs to create digital renderings of their vision. Instead, they used renderings on paper and 3D models, such as the one shown here. The MOA Archives house a number of images of this and other models, though the original models themselves have been lost (and likely would not have stood the test of time, being constructed mostly of foam, paperboard and wood). The model pictured here was not the final design, as indicated by the reflecting pool on the roof, which presented too many structural challenges to actualize.

Sectional Drawing of Proposed Building

Sectional Drawing of Proposed Building, ca. 1973. MOA Facilities and Operations fonds, File F4.

This sectional drawing offers a unique view of the Museum, showing three lengthwise cross-sections of the interior space. It is a fairly simplified drawing and was likely created for the building’s User Committee, one of the planning groups comprised of museum staff, UBC anthropology faculty, and other stakeholders and UBC representatives. This is just one of many architectural drawings that fill the large map cabinet in the MOA Archives.