Week #7- Brian Seymour, Collection Manager of Ethnology 

    One of the aspects of the project that I love the most is that kids take all the pictures, and then I write a post based on what they see.  So what happens if they don’t take pictures?  This week that was the case.  Ok, that’s not absolutely true.  A few photos were taken, but not many.  Not any that really illustrated all the interesting things that happened when we met Collection Manager Brian Seymour.  So I will do my best to fill in the gaps.

    We started the session looking at a model canoe.

    We talked about the design by way of comparing it to another canoe that hangs in our meeting room (there were a lot of differences, and some similarities).  Then we went off to look for Brian, one of the staff members that looks after and helps protects the objects within our Ethnology collection.

    But what is Ethnology anyway?  Here at the Royal BC Museum the Ethnology Collection consists of First Nations material culture (clothing, regalia, carvings, prints, baskets, etc.) from all across the province.  Most of the collection dates from 1800 all the way up to the present.  The collection has storage here at the museum, but information about the collection is accessible online through a searchable catalog on our website.

    Now onto Brian.

    Here he is…

    well kind of.

    When we got up to Brian’s office we noticed that the same Mungo Martin mask that Martha Black showed us last week was out on the table.  So we talked about it some more.  It was great to revisit this amazing mask.

    Speaking of our online catalog, here is a link to our information about the mask:

    Mungo Martin Mask

    Then Brian talked about his job, and how he has been in his position of Collection Manager for 10 years, but has worked at the Royal BC Museum for over 20 years.  And that in his job, part of what he does is makes sure objects that travel from the collection area to the gallery is done so safely.

    He asked the kids whether they wanted to try to do what he does.  They all said yes!

    He took us into the collection area and pointed out a carved (walking) cane in one of the drawers.  He asked the kids to imagine that they were moving that cane into the gallery because Martha wants to have it in a display case.  He then replaced the cane with a regular stick, and said that stick would pretend to be the cane.

    We then went into the preparation room.  Brian asked kids how we might move this ‘cane’ into the gallery.  They thought about it, and pointed to a box that he had out on the table.  Brian showed us some other boxes as well, and talked about how objects are secured.

    The kids then helped Brian put the ‘cane’ into the box.  But before the kids needed to put down a soft surface in the box, to cushion it.  Then once the object was secure in the box, the kids and Brian tied up the box at both ends.

    Then with two hands (or many hands if you have a kids’ club with you) they moved the box over to a cart.  Then they tied the box to the cart.  It was definitely not going to move!

    Then the pushing began.  The kids pushed the cart to the elevator, down to the basement hallway while making siren sounds, passing a seemingly shy bear along the way…

    And then up into the First Peoples Gallery.

    Whew!  All this to move just one object.  This is not easy, but it needs to be done this way to make sure the objects stay safe.

    Brian took us to one display case and said this was where Martha wanted the object to be.  But how do you get in there?  There was not a clear way how that was to happen.  We looked all around and there was no obvious door.

    Well Brian showed us a hidden door and talked about how the design of the gallery was such that they didn’t want to distract the visitor away from the objects.  So they hid things like doors.

    It’s a staff and kids’ club secret now.

    At the end of the visit Brian gave each of the kids a book from the Out of the Mist exhibition, written by Martha Black.

    Thanks Brian!!  And thanks for all your great work keeping objects safe.

    And when I said at the beginning that there were not many photos taken, it was true.  But there was this one photo that was taken of a photo that is hanging on the wall in Brian’s office (from the original museum space in the Parliament Buildings across the street).

    I love this image, and I think it’s a good one to end on as it shows the long history of the work done at the Royal BC Museum.

    Chris O'Connor


    a/Director of Community Engagement and Regional Partnerships

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