The Museum of Anthropology's Great Hall readies for massive seismic upgrades

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      The Museum of Anthropology at UBC is getting set to give its Great Hall major seismic upgrades in preparation for the Big One.

      The $8.8-million renewal project, set to begin in late autumn, is only the second seismic engineering upgrade of its kind in the city--an effort to protect both the iconic building and its collection, especially it famous Northwest Coast Indigenous offerings. Strathcona Elementary School was the first to receive a similar upgrade in 2016, one requiring isolation technology, which places a flexible barrier between the building and the earth to absorb the tremors. 

      The earthquake-proofing is estimated to take nine to 12 months, during which time the Great Hall will be closed. Meanwhile, visitors will be able to see many of the Hall's well-known totem poles undergoing restoration at the museum--many of them in place since the building opened in 1976.
      To celebrate and provide background on the big reno, MOA will mount a new exhibition, Shake Up: Preserving What We Value, from December 2 to fall 2019.

      Displayed in multiple areas throughout the museum, it will explore earthquake science and technology as well as the Indigenous cultures represented in MOA’s Northwest Coast collection. The exhibit is a nod to the knowledge of earthquakes and natural disasters that has been passed down through generations through First Nations cultures. Also as part of the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to see the majestic poles of the Great Hall undergo conservation, many for the first time in 40 years.

      There will also be videos of the construction and seismic upgrade process in the Great Hall and a 360-degree virtual reality tour of the space in its original state. Later in December, following the opening, an earthquake mask by Kwakwaka’wakw artist John Davis (from MOA’s collection) will be on display, as well as contemporary artworks by Haida artist Kwiaahwah Jones and Hesquiaht artist Tim Paul that demonstrate Indigenous cultural knowledge of earthquakes.
      To celebrate the launch of the Great Hall renewal project and the opening of the Shake Up exhibition, MOA will host a family-friendly event on Sunday, December 2, from noon to 4 p.m., when Musqueam community leaders will welcome visitors, followed by presentations from MOA curators and culture and science experts from UBC and SFU. There will be performances of music, dance, and storytelling by cultural groups from earthquake-prone regions, as well as hands-on activities for children, such as gamelan and kecak dance workshops.

      The project is engineered by structural engineering company Equilibrium, with architecture firm Nick Milkovich Architects Inc. taking on the restoration of the hall; Milkovich was a protégé of the MOA’s original architect, the late Arthur Erickson, and helped design it in the mid-1970s. Construction will be managed by Smith Bros. & Wilson.