The archivists from the Musée Héritage Museum attended the Archives Society of Alberta’s (ASA) 2019 conference in Banff from May 24 – 25, 2019.
The conference took place on Treaty 7 Territory and centred on recognizing the gaps in archival holdings across Canada, especially with respect to Indigenous and other cultural communities which have been largely ignored by many archives.
This conference looked at the challenges in identifying and filling these gaps in archival holdings and included different presenters from across Canada addressing many issues, including the lack of some culturally based materials in the archives and inaccurate representation in our archives.Presenters examined many different topics at the conference. Sessions discussed some of the poor existing descriptions found in our archives that have been used to identify different cultural groups. Often the descriptions reflect colonial bias and the need for us to examine our naming conventions and work with different Indigenous groups when gathering information and presenting their stories.
Other discussions focused on helping Indigenous groups to gain the right to self-governance over their own records and gathering more community input for our archives by doing call outs to help describe photographs and other items in the archives.
The Musée Héritage Museum’s archivists, Jia Jia and Vino, also presented at the conference. Our presentation, The Michel Band: Building trust to grow community knowledge, reflected upon our experience working with The Michel Band in order to host an exhibition, telling the story of the Michel Band, at the museum in 2017-2018.
The basis of our presentation was to reflect on the need for building genuine relationships with our community. Our museum worked alongside the Michel Band to assist as they curated their own exhibition and shared their history and stories. The process was a “ten-plus” years project as we worked to develop understanding and trust, before the Michel Band was ready to tell their story in their own words at the museum. This included sharing information about their continued fight to regain status after becoming the first and only band in Canadian history to be completely enfranchised in 1958.
Our presentation shared the history of the Michel Band and the process of working together to create an exhibition that honoured the voices of Michel Band members and their descendants. The museum and staff provided support and expertise in helping build and design an exhibition.
Through this exhibition our community became aware of a largely unknown story from our area, one which was made possible by the strong relationship developed between the museum and the Michel Band. We were thankful that band members felt comfortable to tell their story on a larger platform.
This conference as a whole reminded us that we need to explore the gaps in our institutions, and need to build connections between memory institutions and different Indigenous and other cultural groups so that we can better reflect our diverse community in the archives.
For more information about the Michel Band and exhibition, please visit here: http://museeheritage.ca/whats-on/past-exhibitions/the-michel-band/