Course description

Today the concept and future of museums is under intense scrutiny. Lively debates about the audience experience, emerging social media/technologies, inter-disciplinarity, authenticity and community(s)—to name a few—are challenging the notion of the museum itself. In Canada, a fundamental critique comes from Aboriginal peoples, who have had a contested relationship with museums. We will examine the connections between the worlds of “Indigeneity” and “Museum”, explore how Aboriginal worldview elaborates the meaning of Indigenous cultural practices and ultimately how museums are understood within that worldview. This understanding can radically shift the outlook of museum professionals.

Respectful of Indigenous methodologies, talking circles value the different perspectives of each participant around the circle, facilitating an exchange of knowledge. Equal emphasis is placed on the oral (spoken word) and the documented (written word). Participants visit two Aboriginal cultural exhibitions for talks by Aboriginal curators.

Learning objectives

  • Becoming more familiar with the recent history of Aboriginal artworks.
  • Obtaining knowledge and perspective from two site visits.
  • Analyzing case studies within museums. both successful and unsuccessful.
  • Identifying Aboriginal concepts and practices that can be adapted to work environments within a museum’s daily functioning.
  • Understanding the shared responsibility (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) of nurturing Aboriginal art forms because they are unique to this land.


Note: though not required, prior experience in a cultural organization would be an asset for success in this course. Please contact the Program Coordinator, Tusa Shea, directly at if you have any questions or concerns.


Co-Facilitators: France Trépanier and Chris Creighton-Kelly co-authored Understanding Aboriginal Art in Canada Today for the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2012, they were co-recipients of the Audain Aboriginal Curatorial Fellowship at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

France Trépanier is a visual artist, curator and educator of Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) and French ancestry. She teaches Indigenous Art Studies at Camosun College. France is co-chair of the Indigenous Program Council at the Banff Centre and co-chair of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective. France worked at the Canada Council and at the Department of Canadian Heritage. In 1996-1999, she held a diplomatic post at the Canadian Embassy in Paris where she directed the Centre for New Media.

Chris Creighton-Kelly is an artist, writer and cultural critic of South Asian/British heritage. He writes a column, Culture Talks, on arts issues and has recently begun a book about the Canadian cultural system. In 2014, he facilitated two panels on Aboriginal art: one at the Talking Stick Festival, another at the Push Festival. In 1990-1992, Chris worked for the Canada Council as a special consultant to the Director. His work led directly to the formation of the Council’s Aboriginal Arts Office and Equity Office.

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