Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on December 3, 2013 at 11:32 am

Help us deliver a museum experience with the power to change a city!

Four years ago the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) embarked on a new vision, direction, and brand. At the time, we felt the museum had lost its relevancy and that it was time to step back and find out what Vancouverites really wanted. We discovered that citizens were looking for a neutral space for provocative conversation and dialogue about Vancouver and what it means to live here. As a result, we decided to turn the traditional museum on its head: instead of curating a story and telling it to the public, we would invite the community to help us tell important stories. Instead of just being a museum LOCATED in Vancouver we would become a museum ABOUT Vancouver.


This innovative way of engaging with Vancouverites has seen huge success through recognition by our peers and awards received since our re-branding. In creating the exhibition Sex Talk in the City, we worked extensively with an advisory group of 18 experts to develop an exhibition that promoted a healthy, public dialogue about sexuality in Vancouver. The result was a deeply engaging exhibition that the public responded to positively, despite the provocative topic.

  Where else in the city can you freely and playfully explore how you might like to transform a downtown street? At MOV’s Upcycled Urbanism last July, we pulled together, artists, students, designers, and anyone with an interest in rebuilding a piece of Vancouver to do just that. Together, we transformed a block of Granville Street. Upcycled Urbanism, in partnership with the UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, (SALA) we helped the public re-imagine public art and street amenities.

When you donate to the Museum of Vancouver, your gift makes a big impact! You help people of all ages connect more deeply and relevantly to our city and its history.

By visiting the MOV, becoming a member, renewing your membership, or making a cash donation, you help ensure the long-term sustainability of an institution that has been around since 1894.


Your tax deductible gift of $50 or more will ensure we can keep delivering provocative exhibitions and programs.

For more information about the MOV or making a donation please contact our Director of Development, Debbie Douez at 604.730.5304 or You can also make your donation online from our website at

Be part of the community of the curious and help the MOV continue to pursue its vision: To hold a mirror up to the city and lead provocative conversations about its past, present, and future.

Thank you kindly for your support!

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on October 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm

White Space from Michael Lis on Vimeo.

Earlier, we released Part I of an interview that MOV curator Viviane Gosselin did with our guest curators Greg Johnson and Martin Lewis. Here's Part II, where they delve into what it was like to actually build the exhibition, and get into Dan White's inspirations.


VG: Could you talk about the decision to construct a huge model of the Máté Residence in the centre of the exhibition gallery?

ML: One of the most compelling features of Dan’s work is its play with scale. On the one hand, it is clear that the forms are meant to be read as objects in the landscape. On the other hand, they are clearly functional homes. The fact that they can be enlarged and reduced and rescaled as artefacts, almost at will, and certainly without losing their essence, speaks to how well considered they are. The Maté Residence is 1/4 full scale, which is large for a model but clearly small as a house. So, there should be an interesting, almost arresting dynamic as the viewer confronts this artefact. Are we suddenly four times normal size? Does vital information get lost or abstracted? Do we gain a radically new perspective? We want to ask: ‘Is it big or is it small?’ That ambiguity (of scale and size) is one of the strengths of Dan’s work, and we wanted to communicate this idea effectively in the exhibition space itself.


VG: I know that one of the curatorial intents was to have the gallery space make continual references to Dan White’s work. Could you speak to this?

GJ: Yes. Rather than introduce forms that competed with his work, we decided to use a limited palette that might complement and reinforce the reading of his own formal vocabulary. That is to say, we introduced the square, cube, diagonal, triangle, parallelogram, etc. as the principal components of the exhibition. So in a way, visitors can appreciate that the museum experience itself is a way of experiencing these abstracted forms at varying scales. 


VG: The exhibition uses a multitude of representational methods to interpret Dan’s work: orthographic projections, physical models, 3D computer models, etc. Is there a subtext about the nature of drawing and modelling?

ML: Architecture suffers from a problem of appropriate representation. As Julius Shulman, one of the pioneer photographers of Modern Architecture, noted, it really wants to be experienced by all senses; so, any substitute for that experience – the model, the photograph, the drawing – won’t do justice to the original work. These limitations and challenges associated with architectural representation led us to emphasize the premise and concept of individual projects in evolution rather than the finished product.


VG: What about the large portrait of Dan, made up of small icons?

ML: One of Dan’s primary influences was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the German architect who came to the USA in the 1930s. He designed the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, in 1953, one of the most influential buildings of mid-century architecture. We were acutely aware of the graphic work the design firm 2x4 did with the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), at Mies’s Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago. So, we liked the idea of a portrait that played with the idea of scale and could be constructed of icons representing Dan’s houses.


VG: How are you referencing other works in the exhibition?

ML: We decided that some of our research would involve looking at how the work of architects had been represented in museum and art gallery exhibitions. To start with the classics, there is Mies van der Rohe’s exhibition career, starting in 1926; the Existenzminimum of 1929 in Frankfurt; Hitchcock’s and Johnson’s seminal International Style, at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, in 1939. Of course, now it is not uncommon for architects to curate their own work; in fact, in the age of instant media, it is almost compulsory to embrace that approach as a form of advertising.

Inspirational were exhibition projects such as the Frank Lloyd Wright retrospective at the Guggenheim, NY (2009), ‘Content’ by OMA in Berlin (2003), and ‘Alvar Aalto in the Eyes of Shigeru Ban’ in London (2007), but also countless smaller exhibitions over the years, including ‘Art Into Life’ at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle (1990).

We tend to look at everything. Bik Van Der Pol’s  ‘Butterfly’ installation (Rome, 2010) is one. ‘Grand Hotel’ at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2013), featuring the exquisite models of some of our collaborators, is another recent example. We thought that ‘Ron Thom and the Allied Arts’ at the West Vancouver Museum (2013) was extremely well designed and presented.

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on October 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm

In this final installment of "Who was Daniel Evan White" MOV curator Viviane Gosselin explores how the 2 guest curators got to know Dan and what what working with him was like. Play House: the architecture of Daniel Evan White is on now until March 23, 2013.


VG: When did you first learn about Dan White?

ML: Through a University of Toronto acquaintance, who became Dan’s longest associate, of more than 25 years – Russell Cammarasana. I had noticed the Ma Residence on Spanish Banks when I first came to Vancouver in 1986, because of its sheer audacity and obvious dexterity. But years later, when visiting Russell at the studio, I think Dan mentioned that they were getting very busy and needed some help. It was completely circumstantial. I worked and consulted with Dan’s firm intermittently over a period of 20 years and had the opportunity to work with Dan on his very last project (unbuilt) in 2010.

GJ: I remember the first time I saw one of Dan White’s houses, soon after returning from my architectural studies in Montréal. The house was located on one of those rugged West Coast sites so impossible to build on that it had likely been labelled as unsuitable for development: steep, rocky slopes descending to the ocean, very difficult vehicle access and covered with impenetrable vegetation.

Although still incomplete, the house already exhibited those characteristics so typical of all of Dan’s work – bold, simple and dramatic, with strong, repetitive, geometric forms, fitted to the site in a manner that made it look like it had always been there.

I was fortunate at that time to be sharing office space with Steve Zibin, a long-time colleague of Dan. Steve always spoke so highly of Dan, crediting him with instilling in Steve a strong sense of design. He sent me off in search of the many buildings they had worked on together, most of them hidden away on difficult-to-access sites around the Great Vancouver area. I became familiar with the large body of exceptional work Dan’s office had produced, and at the same time more puzzled as to why these outstanding projects were not better known within the architectural community.

Through an amazing twist of fate shortly thereafter, I found myself working with Dan and a number of his colleagues. The office was a wonderfully creative atmosphere, and I remember it with fondness, as much for the people involved as for the fascinating way in which Dan’s projects came to fruition.


VG: And what was it like to work with him?

ML: Exhilarating. Inspiring. Frustrating. Humbling. Dan was a very quiet, gentle man. I think that those who worked for him, and with him, realized that they were operating in a completely different world of design, mostly anachronistic, completely unsustainable when you come to think of it. It’s remarkable that Dan was able to maintain a practice such as his for so long. For any project, he would generate hundreds of ideas. Some of the ideas were so unconventional at the residential scale (houses spanning deep gorges, suspended spherical rooms, hyperbolic paraboloid skylit roofs) that when first proposed, they seemed like conceits, sheer follies. But then, slowly, as the client’s program evolved and the siting, spatial and technical requirements became more known and considered, those poetic ideas transformed into practical, productive ones. Dan was immensely talented. And in a way not borne out by his daily studio behaviour (he actually did not draw so much as sketch relentlessly). He was extremely hard working. He was always dreaming. He never took a day off.


VG: What lessons do you think can be learned from his work?

ML: Anyone who has striven for simplicity and clarity in any discipline knows how difficult those are to achieve. Dan worked relentlessly, attempting to achieve a measure of perfection. He was rarely successful, but he persisted. He wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. He constructed space, spatial sequence, form. Complex space that rewarded full engagement.

GJ: Dan’s best work was executed when he engaged a broad range of participants with multidisciplinary backgrounds, each substantially contributing to the final artefact. This model, distinct from the antiquated myth of the sole creative genius, is the one most likely to produce outstanding architecture.

ML: What drove the formal language of Dan’s work was his insistence that everything was simple, geometrically consistent and carried through all levels of the architectural program. No other architect in this region successfully carried out that idea at such a scale, with such thoroughness and over such a long period of time. We find that compelling. There are certainly high and low points in the opus: the work is neither ‘perfect’ nor always resolved. But it is shown here, for the first time, for consideration. No one could say that they ‘know’ Dan’s work, because it just wasn’t ‘out there’ before now. In fact, the curatorial team is discovering something new every day.

GJ: Ideas from his 1963 thesis – such as a clear formal vocabulary or the mix of the monumental with the everyday – resonate in his final project 50 years later; that’s instructive.

ML: Our expectations of our buildings and environments are different now, implicated by a new awareness of energy conservation and vague notions of heritage and sustainability. You cannot, nor would you necessarily want to, replicate the buildings of the past 50 years. But you might be interested in what makes some of that architecture and landscape liveable, revered, cared for and loved. This is partly why we think Dan’s work will continue to resonate with the public of today and tomorrow.

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on May 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm

In recent years, the MOV has received funding from the BC History Digitization Program, run by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC.  The aim of the program is to promote increased access to British Columbia’s historical resources.  For us, that means photographing the objects in our collection and making those images accessible to the public at  This year’s round of digitization focused on objects from the Vancouver History Collection.  Two sets of artefacts in particular caught my eye.  They both involve long-standing Vancouver institutions (though one is now defunct) awarding their employees with jewelry for extended years of service.    

The first set, comprised of a tie clip, keychain, and a ring, belonged to Eric Nicol.  Though born in Kingston, ON, Nicol’s family moved to BC when he was two and he was truly a Vancouver boy, attending high school at Lord Byng and university at UBC.  After a few years away in Europe, he returned to Vancouver and became a longtime humour columnist for The Province, winning three Stephen Leacock Memorial Medals for Humour during his tenure. 


These three pieces were awarded to him by The Province; a tie clip for 15 years of service, a keychain for 20 years, and a ring for 25 years.  It’s unclear what company was responsible for the manufacture of the tie clip and key chain, but the ring’s history reads like a provenance hat trick.  Not only was it awarded to a Vancouver resident by a Vancouver newspaper, it was produced by Birks, which has, despite its origins in Montreal, over a century’s worth of history in Vancouver.

The other service awards the MOV has in its collection are from Woodward’s.  The company awarded its employees everything from tie tacks, to watches, to cufflinks and earrings.  Most of the awards in the MOV’s collection are for 20 years of service and the Roman numerals XX feature prominently.  There are a few tie tacks and a set of cufflinks, however, which feature the iconic script W that the company first started using in 1958.


It’s strange to imagine being gifted rings and cufflinks by one’s employer, much less working for the same one for over 20 years.  Much like being able to afford a house in Vancouver or making it through March without a rainy day, it’s not something that a lot of people see as feasible.   However, should anyone currently employed at the MOV still be around in 20 years, I’d like to see them gifted with our iconic white roof immortalized as a giant pendant from Birks, thank you very much.


The digitization of the Vancouver History Collection was made possible by funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia.

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on April 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm

With the Vancouver Art Gallery officially on its way out of their current location between Robson and Georgia, we've been getting asked more and more whether we might be taking that space.

Today we announce that we are committed to finding an optimal location that will complement our provocative, award-winning programs and exhibitions - in other words, we don't know yet whether we will choose to stay here or move. But we have been taking deliberate steps towards securing our position as a thriving part of the Vancouver’s cultural landscape for generations to come.

The MOV has occupied its current location in Vanier Park since 1967, and while the location is picturesque it is not without its challenges (pictured above in 1971). A study is being conducted by AldrichPears Associates (APA) to define a functional program for the Museum in an optimal scenario.

“We are constantly asked about our location,” said Nancy Noble, Museum of Vancouver’s CEO. “With this study we will finally have a definitive answer to the question ‘should we stay or should we go?’”

Through the study, the Museum is examining many options for its location, the current Vancouver Art Gallery space being only one, with potential to stay at its current location. The functional program is informed by current operations, industry best-practices, the vision for the visitor experience at the Museum and the anticipated visitation levels at the current location as well as other locations throughout Vancouver.

Isaac Marshall, Principal at APA, said, “There are so many opportunities in Vancouver right now. It is the perfect time for the MOV to prove it is ready to lead the world in redefining the role of a city museum.”

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on February 18, 2013 at 2:27 pm

When Viviane, Curatorial Lead of Sex Talk in the City, began her research on vibrators she was a little surprised to find that the Museum already had one in its collection.

But one vibrator does not a vibrator display make. To flesh out the history of the vibrator Viviane connected with Vancouver’s own Womyns’Ware, to see if they would be willing to loan their impressive collection of vintage vibes.

I got to take a field trip out to Commercial Drive where I spent a fun-filled hour with Womyn’sWare director Otter Luis photographing pieces from their collection and laughing about how happy the people depicted on the packaging were (we’re pretty sure that one couple pictured were happily doing their taxes together).

Sex Talk in the City features 11 vibes from Womyns'Ware's collection.

Womyns’Ware is a leader in Canada for designing healthy sex toys and for their innovative way of thinking about operating a sex toy store. A big part of what they do is make asking questions easy – Just a few years ago I went in with my mom and one of her best (male) friends because he was curious as to why a sex store would have such an accessible store front and just HAD to check it out. It was his first time ever in a sex store, and the staff let him ask a million questions. He’s ranted about the great experience ever since.

Andrea Dobbs of Womyns’Ware wrote a post for us last year about society’s fears around sexuality, and it’s a must read if you haven’t already.

This Thursday Womyns’Ware is coming to the MOV to lead a workshop in designing for pleasure! So come, get inspired by vibes from the past 100 years, and design your own while learning about the history of sexual satisfaction by technology historian Rachel Maines (whose research inspired the movie Hysteria).

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on October 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm

When Tobias Wong released “This is a Lamp” – a Phillip Stark bubble chair installed with a light bulb and a pull chord – it was considered his breakout moment. It was the beginning of his acquirement of nick names like “Bad Boy” and “Enfant terrible of the design world.” He was showing what he did best – taking every day objects and twisting them to create a point of conversation.

Looking at it, I always wonder who got to sit in that chair. Would I sit in it, if it were in my house? Or would I put it on display. I dug into openMOV to see what Vancouver chairs we have in our collection, and who was sitting in them.

This cute almost wicker style chair was owned by Frances Barkley, the first European woman to view the coast of what would later be called British Columbia. She came while on a three-year honeymoon with her husband, Captain Charles William Barkley. The chair was made in Malacca between 1750 and 1775.

Frances Barkley's chair

Then there is, of course, this lovely summery chair that was owned by Joe Fortes, the English Bay beach lifeguard and swimming instructor. He enjoyed the ocean view from his cottage at English Bay c. 1900-1920 while sitting in this chair, which he found at the cottage when he moved in.

Joe Fortes' chair

And for the orderly and rigid Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, a more stiff chair. Begbie was the first Chief Justice of British Columbia, starting in 1858. Some say the orderliness and lack of crime during the gold rush in BC were probably due to Begbie’s rigid, but fair, enforcement of the law.

Judge Begbie's chair



Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on October 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm

This evening we here at the Museum of Vancouver are extremely pleased to be putting on our first annual MOV Legacy Dinner, during which we will present the inaugural City Shapers Awards.

We began thinking about the awards more than a year ago, when asking ourselves the question “If the city itself is looked at as an artifact, to whom do we credit its creation?” We pulled in seven well recognized city historians, urban planners, and influencers (including David Jordan, Nancy McKinstry, David Sung, Jean Barman, Lance Berelowitc, Carol Alter Kerfoot, and Joan Seidl) together to help review over 50 families and individuals who have helped mould Vancouver as we know it today.

The resulting selection brought forward three extraordinary individuals for this inaugural year:

City Legacy Award:                                      Milton and Fei Wong
Emerging City Visionary Award:                Robert Fung

MOV City Legacy Award:

This award honours those individuals or families that have played a key role in building a foundation for Vancouver so that it could flourish and whose enduring legacy can still be felt in circles either small or large today. This may be a living or posthumous award.

Congratulations 2012 Honourees:            Fei and Milton Wong

Why Fei and Milton Wong?
After studying 56 pages of impressive families throughout Vancouver’s history, Fei and Milton Wong consistently rose to the top for their extraordinary influence over Vancouver’s evolution as a city and their continued impact on it today. Specifically, for their extensive mentorship of a new generation of business and community leaders to believe in the power of diversity; their advocacy for human rights and arts and culture; their support and leadership of organizations such as the Laurier Institute, the B.C. Cancer Foundation, the Salvation Army and SUCCESS; and their continued philanthropic support of educational institutions.

MOV Emerging City Visionary Award:

This award honours those individuals whose actions and/or ideas demonstrate a vision for the long-term needs of Vancouver as an innovative, sustainable, and inclusive city. This individual shows signs of having a future transformative impact on the city and its people.

Congratulations 2012 Honouree:              Robert Fung, Salient Group

Why Robert Fung?
For Robert Fung’s progressive leadership of the development firm the Salient Group; for his innovative work in restoring and revitalizing Vancouver’s built heritage and playing a key role in the revitalization of Gastown in such projects as the Flack Block, Paris Block, and Taylor Building; for his driving vision towards a more sustainable form of urbanism, building LEED certified developments; and for his mentorship of a new generation of developers in Vancouver demonstrating the successful combination of sustainability, conservation, and mixed-use commercial and residential development.

You can hear Robert Fung speak about receiving the award on the CBC Early Edition podcast from earlier this morning (October 10, 2012 - last interview of the podcast).

The awards were designed by Propeller Design, and mimic the exterior of the Museum of Vancouver building.

Robert Fung photo provided by Stephen Hui.

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on September 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Ballistic Rose by Tobias WongIt could be considered a shield for the heart, or a statement on a culture of fear following 9/11. You could admire it as a beautiful brooch, or an interesting piece of art. Tobias Wong hit chords soft and strong when he produced the Ballistic Rose back in 2004.

Accompanying the rose is the Bulletproof Quilted Duvet, a black duvet cover made from Kevlar and sewn with a pattern of ivy and centered with a rose image. Usually, we don't associate roses with violence, or bullets with bedding. In my life, roses have typically been associated with old lady furniture, 1990s Home Interior decor, birthday cards from my grandmother, and things I need to buy for my mother's birthday.

To get a sense of just how far out the Ballistic Rose is from what we typically think of as roses, I hit OpenMOV with a search for "rose".

If this isn't "normal" for roses, I just don't know what it is. Laura Chadsey handed out these calling cards way back c. 1870-1890. A cute cat, a red rose.

A 1880s calling card w rose

A bit more unusal for the search for roses is a Foncie Foto of Rose McCarthy, who was visiting Vancouver from Winnipeg on a windy day in April 1955.

Foncie Foto from MOV collection

But my favourite is Pauline Johnson's lingerie bag - a small drawstring sack owned by the famous Mohawk poet and writer who was born in Brantford, ON, and died and was buried in Vancouver. She is known for writing Legends of Vancouver, and when she passed away in 1913 her funeral was the largest held in Vancouver to date.

Pauline Johson's lingerie bag

In this video clip, Object(ing) co-curator Viviane Gosselin talks about the Ballistic Rose.



What rose artifacts do you have in your house or family?

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on September 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm

About 400 visitors flooded the MOV last night for the opening of Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong, including Tobias friends and family - some from as far away as New York City and Hong Kong.

Photos from the night are now available on our Flickr account.

If you're interested in learning more about Tobias, grab a copy of today's Globe and Mail (Thursday, September 20) for a full page spread by Marsha Lederman, who includes quotes from both curators, his mom, and his friend and show content advisor, Pablo Griff.

You can also snag a copy of the Georgia Straight, where Janet Smith explores why Tobias is so notable.

Or, if your eyes need a break, listen in on Wednesday's CBC Early Edition piece, where Margaret Gallagher interviewed co-curator Viviane Gosselin.

A HUGE thank you to event sponsors Fork in the Road wine and Butler Did It catering. To Monnet Design who designed the truly beautiful catalogue. To Hemlock Printers for printing the catalogue.

We can't wait to invite you all to the opening of Sex Talk in the City next February!



Subscribe to Blog