Museum of Anthropology at UBC – Shake Up: Preserving What We Value


Press Release: 

MOA Unveils Earthquake-Awareness Exhibition
Shake Up: Preserving What We Value
to Mark $8.8M Seismic Upgrades Coming to
Iconic Great Hall

Visitors are invited to witness MOA’s groundbreaking preparations to protect treasured poles and cultural objects against ‘the Big One’

VANCOUVER, BC  – On the occasion of The Great British Columbia ShakeOut, which takes place today, October 18, 2018, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC announces that its dramatic Great Hall will receive extensive seismic upgrades beginning in the late fall, to augment the building’s structural integrity and help preserve the invaluable cultural significance and living heritage of the world-renowned Indigenous Northwest Coast collection. The $8.8-million renewal project of the Great Hall represents only the second seismic engineering upgrade of its kind in Vancouver, ensuring MOA’s building and collections will be preserved for future generations.

In conjunction with this immense undertaking, MOA will mount a new exhibition, Shake Up: Preserving What We Value from December 2, 2018 to Fall 2019. The exhibition will be displayed in multiple areas throughout the Museum, bringing to light the convergence of earthquake science and technology with the rich Indigenous knowledge and oral history of the living cultures represented in MOA’s Northwest Coast collection. Beyond scientific discoveries, knowledge of earthquakes and natural disasters has been passed down through generations throughout many cultures, including those of the Northwest Coast First Nations. Also as part of the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to see the majestic poles of the Great Hall undergo conservation, many for the first time in 40 years.

“In Vancouver, we are all too familiar with the idea of ‘the Big One’—a catastrophic earthquake that threatens to unleash irreparable damage upon our city and beyond. That’s why we are taking measures to seismically upgrade the Great Hall and educate our community with the Shake Up exhibition,” says Jill Baird, MOA’s Curator of Education. “Join us as museum professionals, scientists, artists, cultural leaders, and knowledge keepers come together to raise earthquake awareness, educate the public, and preserve what we value.”

Jennifer Kramer, Curator of the Pacific Northwest and Co-Curator of Shake Up continues, “As MOA undergoes a major seismic upgrade of the Great Hall in preparation for a potential mega earthquake, it causes us to think on what we value and how we preserve not only our belongings and iconic architecture, but also how we encourage our community to care for our cultures.”

Highlights of the exhibition include media installations featuring interviews with cultural knowledge holders, scientists, artists, and engineers; real-time and time-lapsed videos of the construction and seismic upgrade process in the Great Hall; and a 360-degree virtual reality tour of the Great Hall in its original state. Later in December, following the opening, an earthquake mask by John Davis (Kwakwaka’wakw) from MOA’s collection will be on display, as well as contemporary artworks by Kwiaahwah Jones (Haida) and Tim Paul (Hesquiaht) that demonstrate Indigenous cultural knowledge of earthquakes.

To celebrate the launch of the Great Hall renewal project and the opening of the Shake Up exhibition, MOA will host a family-friendly event on Sunday, December 2, 2018 from 12pm to 4pm. Visitors will be welcomed by Musqueam community leaders and will hear presentations from MOA Curators, as well as culture and science experts from UBC and SFU. There will be performances of music, dance, and storytelling by cultural groups from earthquake-prone regions. This day of celebration and learning also includes hands-on activities for children, such as gamelan and kecak dance workshops.

MOA is only the second building in Vancouver to receive seismic upgrades of this nature, following Strathcona Elementary School in 2016. The Great Hall retrofit will utilize base isolation technology, providing a flexible barrier between the building and the earth that is designed to absorb the impact of earthquake activity.

The project is engineered by the award-winning structural engineering company Equilibrium. The architecture firm is Nick Milkovich Architects Inc, whose principal Nick Milkovich was a protégé of MOA’s original architect, the late Arthur Erickson, and was involved in designing the Museum in the mid-1970s. Construction will be managed by Smith Bros. & Wilson.

The renewal project—which is estimated to take nine to 12 months, during which time the Great Hall will not be accessible to the public—will involve digging out the foundation and removing the glass windows in order to install 21 base isolators beneath each column, as well as adding two new columns.

In preparation for this work, the more than 20 monumental wooden carvings currently housed in the space will be removed by MOA’s Collections and Conservation staff with support from Pro Tech Industrial Movers. Many of the poles currently in the Great Hall were mounted when the Museum first opened in 1976, and have not been moved in 40 years. The conditions of the poles vary and each one will require its own de-installation plan to ensure its safety during the move. The poles will be laid horizontally while temporarily stored in MOA’s O’Brian Gallery, adjacent to the Great Hall, and will undergo conservation efforts, including surface cleaning and paint consolidation. New mounts will be built for the poles to re-install them in the Great Hall upon completion of the seismic upgrades next year. Visitors will be able to partially view the poles while they are stored and undergoing conservation.

As part of a larger renewal project during the coming year, MOA will also receive further $8.2-million upgrades to its exterior, including the replacement of the Museum’s roofs and skylights in the Great Hall and lobby areas, as well as spot repairs to the exterior walls.

 Shake Up: Preserving What We Value is the first of two exhibitions at MOA to explore the theme of natural disasters and their implications. A Future for Memory: In the Aftermath of the 3/11 Disaster, curated by MOA Curator of Asia Fuyubi Nakamura, is slated to open in early 2020. Based on research from the past seven years, it will focus on the changing physical and psychological landscapes in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake in Japan, and consider its local and global resonances.

About MOA (
The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is world-renowned for its collections, research, teaching, public programs and community connections. Founded in 1949 in the basement of the Main Library at UBC, its mission is to inspire understanding of and respect for world arts and cultures. Today, Canada’s largest teaching museum is located in a spectacular Arthur Erickson-designed building overlooking mountains and sea. MOA’s worldwide collections consist of more than 42,000 cultural objects and artworks created in Asia, Africa, Oceania, Europe and the Americas—with a focus on the Pacific Northwest. MOA’s Multiversity Galleries provide public access to more than 9,000 of these objects and artworks. The Audain Gallery and the O’Brian Gallery, MOA’s temporary exhibition spaces, showcase travelling exhibitions, as well as those developed in-house.



MOA Presents
Shake Up: Preserving What We Value
Dates:  December 2, 2018 to Fall 2019
Opening:  December 2, 2018 from 12pm to 4pm


Museum of Anthropology 
University of British Columbia
6393 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver

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