Musqueam exhibit Cesna?em wins Governor General's History Award

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       Cesna?em, a collaboration between the Museum of Vancouver, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Musqueam First Nation, and Susan Roy from the University of Waterloo, has just nabbed the 2015 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Museums.

      Gold medals were presented today at Rideau Hall by Governor General David Johnston.

       The award recognizes individuals or institutions that have made remarkable contributions to a better knowledge of Canadian history. The winning exhibit, subtitled The City Before the City, tells the story of one of the largest ancient Musqueam villages and burial sites upon which Vancouver was built. The ancient village was founded about 5,000 years ago at what was then the mouth of the Fraser River—the southern border of today’s Marpole neighbourhood.

      “Cesna?em was a place where families lived and put their people to rest and was a sophisticated society. That’s why the exhibit is called ‘The City Before the City,’" the MOA's Jordan Wilson, co-curator of the exhibition, said in a press statement today. “All too often there’s a picture painted of these villages as quite small and primitive, but in fact it was quite a large site, and the Musqueam people played a significant role in shaping the City of Vancouver.”

      “Winning such a prestigious national award is a testament to the hard work, creativity and perseverance of the curatorial teams,” Nancy Noble, CEO of MOV, said in the announcement. “This important exhibition has allowed the Museum to confront its own colonial past, acknowledging the actions of our predecessors and hopefully, in some small way, reconciling the many misconceptions about the Musqueam people, their history and their continued contributions to Vancouver and Canadian society.”

      “Museums are no longer just passive buildings that store old objects. They play an active role in sharing new knowledge,” saidJanet Walker, President and CEO of Canada’s History Society, which administers the award. “Cesna?emThe City Before the City is a perfect example of how a museum exhibition can counter an existing narrative—that Vancouver is a young city of immigrants—and replace it with a more truthful version of events. In this way, museums help shape our future as well as our past.”