Posted by: Gala Milne on December 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm

"All good things come to an end..." or do they?

The interactive storymap project has marked exciting new directions for the Museum of Vancouver in realizing the multiple ways in which we, as a community, can deepen our connections to one another.

For government, arts and culture organizations, and technologists alike, the challenge of storytelling has become more complex as we transition from the town square and into a web-based world. After the colourful walls come down at the end of December, wrapping up an extremely successful 7-month exhibition, the interactive storymap means that we are able to continue sharing personal tales of bhangra culture in Vancouver.


Borne of a conversation between the MOV's curator of audience engagement, Hanna Cho, and Nik Garkushka from Microsoft, a strong desire was hatched to bridge new forms of web-based and mobile tools with civic conversation around bhangra history in Vancouver. From there, the challenge would be developing the resources, knowledge and connections necessary to bring the storymap to life.

Lucky for us, Nik had a strong interest in using (excuse the jargon) MSFT tools around Silverlight to be inter-operable with Drupal and Open Source platforms, and commissioned Mark Arteaga of RedBit, and Aaron McGowan to create the customized map. Wildly exceeding our expectations, they not only created the online interface that drives, but they also developed the standalone mapping application that has been displayed inside the built exhibition space.

We are sincerely thankful to Nik, Mark, and Aaron for their finely tuned dedication to this project as well as the donation of the two touchscreen monitors that have been mounted in the exhibition.

The art of storytelling: revitalized

The next part of the storymap was completely up to you, as participants, to share your tears, laughter, and secret dance moves with the rest of the world. And you did! From mobile videos to written stories, photographs and slideshows of your personal moments with bhangra culture throughout its interesting history in the Northwest, we saw an entirely new form of social and historical connection take place at the Museum of Vancouver. A connection which saw you, the museum-goer, as directly involved in the make-up of the exhibition, as well as part of the greater cultural landscape that makes Vancouver so unique.

The MOV's first ever exhibition on the history of south-asian folk dance may be coming to a close, but your ability to share reflections, romances, and realities on your personal history with bhangra will continue to live on through the interactive online storymap.

Posted by: Gala Milne on December 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm

MOVments: current events in Vancouver by the Museum of Vancouver

Enbridge mapWith the controversy surrounding the Gitxsan First Nation and the non-unanimous handshake with Endbridge in Northern BC, our thoughts this week at the MOV have a key focus on environmental justice.

As the Gitxsan community outlines, more frequently the language of apathy is turning to the language of uproar when it comes to the environment. As Hanna pointed out, teachers are speaking out against the “Catch $25” wherein public schools are increasingly financially immobilized by BC’s carbon neutrality goals in ways that local government, the private sector, and corporations are not.

Even The Muppets (yes, Kermit and Miss Piggy), are having their say on our global oil addiction in their latest movie, much to the chagrin of US FOX news broadcasters who state the Muppets are ‘brainwashing’ your kids with their liberal agenda!

All this action makes for exciting times, and in case you need some extra encouragement, here is a well-articulated TEDx talk about the Antidote to Apathy. Ultimately, this video asks us to stand up, and speak out – which is exactly what Michaelle Jean wants women to do in the effort to end violence against women on this 22nd anniversary of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.False Creek map

Concrete jungle – be gone! The City of Vancouver announced winners of the re:CONNECT urban viaduct design contest last week with entry no.71, a parks-and-public-places entry, as the most popular choice.

At the MOVeum: You’re invited to participate in the MOV’s public forum on food resiliency this Wednesday. In partnership with Vancouver Food Policy Council and Village Vancouver Transition Society, From Here to There: Food, Energy, and Resiliency in Vancouver starts at 5pm!

Posted by: Gala Milne on November 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Ever dreamed of exhibiting your photos at the MOV? Now is your chance.

The Museum of Vancouver is partnering with SPARC BC for a special exhibition of your photos on Vancouver’s “working world”. From tough trades, to tall towers, Working World: Diversity and Employment in Metro Vancouver, will showcase your unique perspective on this city’s intersection of work and diversity. The aim of the photo contest and exhibition is to cause people to reflect on what diverse workplaces and workplace diversity means to them, and what they see as key issues, strengths, new ways of thinking.

Working World by SPARC BCWHY: To challenge, support, and broaden the conversation on diversity in and of the workplace in Vancouver. Plus you could win $100- $1500 for your contribution.

WHO: Your photos as curated by members of SPARC BC and the Museum of Vancouver.

WHAT: A photojournalistic, documentary style approach to workplace diversity. Send one sample photo by January 6th. If your photo is selected, you will be asked to submit 15 additional photos on the same theme.

WHERE: Photos will be showcased in the community gallery at the Museum of Vancouver. Previous exhibits in this space include “Post No Bills: Vancouver’s Punk Family Tree” a collection of posters, LPs & photos from Vancouver’s early punk rock era. The community gallery achieves high viewer traffic as it is free and open to the public.

RCMPWHEN: Your submission of one photojournalistic style image, photo description, CV, and artist statement are due by January 6, 2012 at 4:30pm. Once your sample photo is selected, photographers will be asked to submit 15 additional photos by mid-February. Selected images will be on display April 2012.

Contact: Katie McCallum at
Info + Submission Guidelines:

Photos: Brett Beadle

Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on November 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm
Sex Talk in the City exhibition blog
We had a great meeting last week with the Sex Talk in the City Advisory Committe. It was packed with action and thinking. Now I'm asking members of the committee to contribute to the blog and share their thoughts on the development of the exhibition.
Here is an idea from Greg Smith, Executive Director at Options for Sexual Health, that meeting participants were quite responsive to:

I’d like the people who come to write down a hang-up they have about sex — quite literally on one of those paper-covered hangers we get at the dry cleaner’s — and hang it up in a kind of closet at the door. Anonymously, of course.  If they still have the hang-up when they leave the exhibition, they’ll be encouraged to take it home.  Otherwise I’d like them to leave it behind. Read the full post.

Join in the conversation on Twitter: @xtalkinthecity #xtalkMOV



Posted by: Gala Milne on November 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm

MOVments: current events in Vancouver by the Museum of Vancouver

Ah, the sweet smell of victory.

The BC Lions charged their way to a Grey Cup win on Sunday – and quel surprise – the only brawl to break out involved former CFL legends and a ‘peace offering’ of flowers at an alumni luncheon. Looks like the MOV won’t be inheriting any more “vanlover” graffiti walls for the time being.

What goes up must come down, and in this case a celebration in sports, means a sad lament for the environment as the Federal Government announces its intention of pulling out of the Kyoto Accord . Along with strong nationalism and the ‘harperization’ of government communications, this latest move has many Canadians and a few MOVers considering the terms “Conversatism” and “Orwellian”  more closely. (Maybe now is a good time to mention that CBC Vancouver is holding their open house this Friday, Dec 2nd.)

Meanwhile, the tents may have gone down for Occupy Vancouver, but the group is looking at new phases for the movement, which has brought more discourse on class and capitalism to the forefront than ever before. In London, the occupy groups have begun occupying abandoned banks and buildings - Amanda in marketing wonders what we'll see from the Vancouver group.

Neon Lover? Perhaps our current exhibit has got you thinking about Granville’s “Great White Way” and considering historical neon signs. As Hanna pointed out, the Yale Hotel is closing for renovations  after 123 years, but promises to maintain it’s brick walls and neon signage.

Speaking of renovations, be sure to have your voice heard on the state of Vancouver’s viaducts.

And lastly, for those of you interested in the relationship between public media and art, Kate recommends “Urban Screens and City Building”, a free public talk with Mirjam Struppek at SFU Surrey.  Many collaborations have been made between museums and urban screen projects asking the question, “What is their potential for creating personal or shared experiences?”

Posted by: Gala Milne on November 22, 2011 at 12:07 am

MOVments: current events in Vancouver by the Museum of Vancouver

Like much of the city, over here at the MOV, we’re thinking about Vancouver municipal politics, change, and the arts. What does another three years of Vision Vancouver look like? Increased citizen engagement? Increased investment in arts, culture, public space, and greenways?

Amanda over in Marketing, was intrigued by the increased voter turnout for Saturday’s polls, and wondering how Vancouver will react to this week’s relocation of Occupy Vancouver

Vancouver ChangeCamp might be a good place to start if you’re interested seeing change in yourself, your community or the city. Changecamp brings together people from the business community, the non-profit and activist world, government (both elected officials and staff) and those with lived experience in the issues we care about – MOV will be there!

Meanwhile, the city celebrated some of the city's most creative, at the Eastside Culture Crawl this past weekend, and MOV's Gala Milne produced this CBC spotlight on Melva Forsberg, who has been producing controversial, politicized buttons in Vancouver over the last 30 years - some of which are in archives at the MOV!

And thanks to all who came out to our Built City lecture last week on Revitalizing Wood Architecture. The Migrating Landscapes exhibit is in studio until November 27th, with closing talk and design challenge results announced on  Friday November 25th!

Posted by: Joan Seidl on November 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Rob Gillette tube bendingRob Gillette is the man behind the bright neon glow of the Drake Hotel sign in MOV’s new exhibit Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver. Rob is a tube bender, one of the old-school artisans who makes magic with glass and rare gases. We visited Rob and his dog Blondy at his studio in Langley when he was getting some of the MOV’s vintage neon signs in working condition again. Rob was part of the team that exhibition sponsor Pattison Signs deployed to light up the signs once again.

The exhibition was an opportunity for Rob’s generation of tube benders to match skills with the old-timers who bent glass into Hootie the Owl’s kilt (in MOV’s Rexall “We Deliver” sign) and elaborate art deco script (as in MOV’s Williams Piano House sign).

Rob showed us how it was done. First, he fired up a gas flame, then he used both hands to manipulate a length of straight glass tubing in the flame until it was soft enough to bend, but not so soft that it dripped on the floor. He used his mouth and a thin hose to softly blow a current of air through the tubing, keeping the tube open even as he bent it into curves.

(For spectacular footage of a tube bender in action, check out the film Glowing in the Dark directed by Harry Killam and produced by Alan Goldman of Blueplate Productions, Vancouver.)

Neon sign tube bending stationOnce the tubing was shaped (in this case into the “ette” of Annette’s Dress Salon sign), Rob sealed the ends and prepared to load the gas. The flasks (known in the industry as ‘gas bombs’) that contain the rare gases are located in front of a wall covered with snapshots of enormous steelheads that Rob has caught on countless fishing trips. Rob carefully opened a valve and neon gas flowed into the narrow tube.

Later, Rob warned us to stand back as he jammed the throttle on the electricity and sent 220 power racing through the glass unit. Once he was assured that all was well, Rob invited us to look at it very, very closely. Squinting at the tube from two inches away, we convinced ourselves that we could actually see tiny movements inside – the electrical current exciting the neon electrons which danced as they gave off light.

The brilliance and buzz is writ large in the exhibition Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver where 22 neon signs fill the gallery with energy and light. Thanks to Gillette Rob for bringing eight of those signs back to life and light. To learn more, you can contact Rob at

Posted by: Guest Author on November 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Gentle readers, we’ve reached the conclusion of the Painful Crushes Vancouver series but what have we learned? Well, for starters, there’s no such thing as a fairytale romance with Vancouver (surprise!). As Charlie Demers told us last month, you can be head-over-heels with Vancouver but living here still sometimes feels like dating someone in rehab.

Counterintuitively, it seems that knocking Vancouver off its pedestal can actually help us get over our painful crushes. Once we realize that Vancouver’s not perfect we can begin repositioning ourselves in the city, reimagining the kinds of relationships we’d like to have here, and challenging Vancouver to be a better place.

This is something that my final interviewee, writer and journalist Charles Montgomery has thought a lot about in researching his upcoming book, The Happy City, which focuses on the connections between urban design and emotional wellbeing. Like other critical, outspoken Vancouverites, Charles loves the city but believes we have a lot to work on. In a fitting end to the series, he talks about how to cultivate the kinds of trusting relationships that make us happy even when the city itself sometimes gets in our way.

When it comes to Vancouver there seems to be some discrepancy between what we think will make us happy and what actually does. What makes a city truly happy?

Well, I recently spent the last day of summer at Wreck Beach, drinking cold beer, eating what turned out to be a poorly cooked Bavarian smokey, and watching the hippies cheer and dance the sun as it disappeared. It was a moment of sweetness followed almost immediately by convulsive vomiting. In some ways it’s a metaphor for the city: Vancouver looks like everything you ever wanted and yet somehow it produces a kind of unwellness.

For the past few years I’ve been researching the connection between the science of happiness and the ways in which we design and live in cities. Vancouver gets so much right and yet we know that people in small towns such as Windsor and St. John’s claim to be more satisfied with life. What are we doing wrong? We know that in places where people say they’re the happiest there’s a high degree of social trust which suggests that the most powerful contributor to our happiness is our relationships with other people.

You say happy cities “guide people into intersecting moments” by providing public spaces where people can meet and connect. Why is Vancouver so bad at this?

People in Vancouver have to work harder just to pay for the places where they live. When you’re working harder you don’t have as much time for personal relationships. And for a variety of reasons Vancouver has been actively designing these experiences out of people’s lives. There’s a tremendous demand for two-bedroom plus apartments but one-bedroom apartments are much more profitable to build. We end up having these towers filled with ‘isolation units’ downtown where you eat alone, you sleep alone, you wake up alone.

But we’re also making an effort. I think the Woodward’s development is a really optimistic expression of what it means to live in a city together and to take chances. For the first time we have a roof over a public space so that people from the neighbourhood have somewhere to come when it’s raining. There’s market housing right next door to social housing. We know that Vancouver’s reliance on its supermodel good looks and natural amenities hasn’t fulfilled us but maybe these kinds of experiments can lead us in that direction.

What can we do, short of redesigning the city, to make ourselves happier here?

John Helliwell, an economist at UBC, insists that we just have to try harder. You know that elevator in your apartment building? That’s an opportunity to create new relationships. I’ve also found that spending more time biking has really helped. I used to complain about rush hour and despise other drivers on the road. I began interacting with people in a different way when I started cycling to work. When the city built the Dunsmuir bike path I found that we cyclists began experiencing our own rush hour but rather than avoiding it I timed my trip so that I could ride with all these other people. It’s not that we’re all going to become best friends but a morning culture of conviviality has definitely emerged.

What spaces make you happy in Vancouver?

It’s funny, when I lived in the West End I was a block from the beach and I was a block from shops and services, but I felt inexplicably unhappy and terribly lonely. And that feeling didn’t disappear for me until I found my home in East Vancouver. I don’t have a mountain view, no seawall, no architectural icons, no Vancouverism. But somehow by turning my back on that famous city I found a place that embraced me warmly.

So does wanting to change Vancouver make the city a bit of a "project" or a "fixer upper"? Maybe, but then again maybe that’s not such a bad thing in this case.

This series might be over but the conversation doesn’t need to end here. Find @Museumofvan on Twitter and share your own #PainfulCrushes in our city. What expectations have changed for you since living in Vancouver? What places make you particularly happy or sad?

You can find Charles writing about how cities are making us happy and miserable here and here, and also here.

MOV Guest author Anna Wilkinson is a museologist and oral historian living in East Vancouver. Her Chestbursters blog is a collection of endearingly awkward, cringe-inducing, and heartbreaking crush stories.

Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on November 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

They may not stick around forever, but these three “P” words are helping me to think through the exhibition concept and zoning. I want to start imagining how we will divide up our 3600 square foot gallery space into zones that will focus on key ideas. It definitely helped to fuel conversations at the meeting last week with the Sex Talk in the City advisory committee:

  • Pleasure: Everybody agrees (at least in our committee) that sex is good, fun and healthy and that sexual pleasure will mean different things to different people. As Scarlett Lake suggested at one of our meetings: “Sex should be understood like a buffet at a restaurant: you pick and choose what you want. Some people will have adventurous tastes whereas others will come back for  the same thing every time!
  • Politics: This is really about how power is acquired and applied by groups of people to make collective decisions. And there are plenty of examples where groups in position of power make decisions that affect the way we express our sexuality publically and privately. The committee wants to further explore the private/public nature of sexuality.
  • Pedagogy: It may not be the most fitting term to capture my idea but I really wanted to stay with the “P”! This theme has to do with identifying ways in which we talk about sexuality to people of all ages in ways that enable and empower them to critically engage with the mass of information (good and bad) that’s out there and make educated decisions about their sexuality.


These are interconnected themes that could be emphasized or intersected in different areas of the exhibition. Take sex toys for instance: they accessorize our sex lives to support sexual exploration and pleasure; they can increase our understanding of our own sexuality – real teaching moments— and they have recently been at the centre of heated debates over legislations (or lack thereof) surrounding the manufacturing and distribution of sex toys.

I’m in the process of negotiating the loans of some interesting “antique” artefacts with other museums and local stores. I‘ll let you guess what they are . . .

A huge MERCI to Andrea, Janna and Otter co-founders/owners of Womyns’Ware for a most inspiring afternoon conversation about the poetics and politics of locally designed and manufactured sex toys.

Read more on the  Sex Talk in the City Project

Join in the conversation on Twitter: @xtalkinthecity #xtalkMOV

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 31, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Voting. After an extremely low turnout in 2008, the City of Vancouver is trying to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections with social media apps, more advanced polling days, and translating information and ballot questions into Punjabi and Chinese. An earlier request by the city to test online voting during this election was turned down by the provincial government.

OccupyVancouver. The handling of the camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery has emerged as a major election issue and as the protestors become more entrenched, so too does the pressure to move them. City staff have began to talk to the people at the camp about ending the occupation, but have yet to figure out the course of action with the smallest amount of conflict.

Legal experts at UBC opine that since the Art Gallery is on provincial land, it exists in a complicated grey area where city bylaws do not apply, making it difficult for anyone to form a legal case for removing the camp.

Others complain politicians should instead focus on addressing the conditions that led to the protest in the first place.

Missing women. Families of the missing women have testified to years of frustration, as police repeatedly ignored missing persons reports and chose not to investigate or press charges after receiving tips as early as 1997. The deadline for the inquiry has been extended by six months, due to the volume of evidence and testimony, and how long the proceedings took to begin.

Liquor laws. Both the Rio and District 319 have come up against the province's outdated liquor laws that prohibit them from screening films after acquiring their liquor licenses.

Videomatica. Finally some good news about one of Vancouver's best video rental stores: after slumping business and rising rents forced Videomatica to shut down their West 4th store, they've announced that they will continue DVD sales out of the back of Zulu Records.

Community stories. A creative writing workshop at Onsite enables people in the Downtown Eastside to tell their own stories, while Hope in Shadows aims to do the same thing with photography.

In South Hill, residents have been using digital filmmaking to tell their stories and connect with their neighbours.

How a group of concerned community members saved the saved the hollow tree in Stanley Park.

Image: Karen Kuo


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