McCord Museum's Wearing Our Identity exhibit strives to help the visitor project the artifacts back into the societies in which they were created
In Of Montreal, Robert Everett-Green writes weekly about the people, places and events that make Montreal a distinctive cultural capital.
The McCord Museum in Montreal has one of the largest and most important collections of indigenous artifacts in Canada. The museum is justly proud of this, though it's an uneasy kind of distinction. Museums have always played a big role in storing and validating the booty of colonialism. The mere act of putting something in a display case cuts it off from the social context that gave it meaning.
The McCord's new permanent display of its First People's Collection is steeped in awareness of the problem. It's called Wearing Our Identity, and it strives at every step to help the visitor project the artifacts back into the societies in which they were created. Even the reference to "our identity" gestures toward yielding to the perspective of those who no longer own the items on view.