11 March 2015

Wachiya! Some of your members might remember me from when I worked at the Pitt Rivers Museum or Bristol City Museum &Art Gallery! After 3 years in Qatar, I am now back in Canada, living in a Cree community and working in a fascinating Cree museum as the Coordinator of Collections & Exhibitions. I wanted to share some information about where I am working with the Museum Ethnographers Group!

ACCI from the exterior
ACCI to the right, with Ouje Bougomou band office to the left and ice rink/multi use community shaptuan in the centre and frozen lake Opemiska in the background (after the buildings and before the tree line. 

ACCI, open from 2011, is the cultural centre for the nine Cree communities of EeyouIstchee in Northern Quebec, Canada. This major new facility was designed by celebrated architect Douglas Cardinal and is located in the Cree community of Oujé-Bougoumou, QC, overlooking Lake Opemiska.

ACCI is a multi-purpose cultural entity, bringing together regional cultural programming for the Cree Nation for all to share on-site, and throughout the communities. Our building features 3,000 square feet of long-term and temporary exhibition spaces; visible storage; a documentation and resource centre; state-of-the-art collection storage (including archaeology) and work space for 40 staff. From 2013 we have been designated as a Category ‘A’ designated institution for cultural property. Our facilities are equivalent to the provincial and national museums in Canada.

Aanischaaukamikw has as its foundation the concept of aanischaa, which refers to ‘a bridging or continuity’, to ensure that Cree traditions, knowledge and values are passed on from generation to generation. ACCI is both a place of healing and a place in which to practice, protect and enhance Cree language and culture.

Ouje Bougoumou cultural village, where traditional events and activities are held
Our goal is to preserve and pass on Cree traditions to the growing Cree communities through the presentation of Cree culture as part of contemporary modern society with continuity from the traditional past. Our programs emphasise the contribution of elder’s knowledge and wisdom, which is shared with younger generations using state of the art technology alongside traditional methods. Our remit includes gathering of oral history, acquisition of artefacts of Cree traditional and modern material culture; research of Cree material culture through identification, preservation, research, permanent and travelling exhibitions, grant programs, and professional development for our Cree staff who are working at the first Cree museum in Eeyou Istchee.

Beaded hood by Paula Menarick
 Our inaugural exhibition ‘Reclaiming the Ways of Our Ancestors’ features objects from our small (but growing) permanent collection, as well as many national, and even international, loans. One of the exciting events during our opening ceremony was the opportunity to re-unite a pair of late 18th century quill work moccasins, one of which is in the collections of the North America Native Museum in Zurich, while the other is in the collections of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Ontario. To date, we have had Cree objects on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum, the Manitoba Museum, the Musée du Civilisation Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History (formerly Canadian Museum of Civilisation), the Canadian Guild of Crafts, Glenbow Museum, the Royal Alberta Museum and the McCord Museum (to name a few!). A recent project involved our Collections Officer, Paula Menarick, who is also an accomplished Cree/Inuit craftswoman, undertaking research into beaded hoods. She spent 600 hours recreating a hood in the traditional style, with the consultation of elders who remembered the hoods being worn during winter travels between camps. This is now on display alongside hoods on loan from the Hudson Bay Company collection at Manitoba Museum. 

Camp theme case as referred to below
Due to the fragile nature of many of our collections, we undertake a 6 month rotation schedule in our exhibit hall. In January we changed the themes of three cases to include a contemporary ‘Camp’ theme; hide processing tools and a contemporary costume from a girl’s ‘First Snowshoe Walk’ ceremony. The ‘Camp’ case features a chainsaw, a water carrier, camp shoes, a goose decoy, a medicine bottle and camp crockery – some of which are new acquisitions from 2014. We also used some contemporary winter camp photographs that were entered by community members in the ‘Ouje Bougoumou Winter Photography Competition’ at the end of the year. The hide processing tools were found in Chibougamau Lake in the 20th century, and were a transfer from Cumberland Museum in British Columbia, who felt these objects suited our remit more than theirs!

Hide processing tools on display
First Snowshoe Walk costume, on loan from Paula Menarick: embroidered parka, sealskin mittens, cap, kamiks with duffle lining, socks, wrist warms, scarf and shawl and skirt. 
First Snowshoe Walk toboggan and makaahikan (walking stick/shovel)
It is an exciting time for ACCI with our expanding collections and plans for new temporary 
exhibitions, both to hold in-house and to travel! We are also looking for international partnerships with any museum that holds objects from the James Bay region of Quebec to work together on long term loans and to help provide contemporary interpretation from our communities for your James Bay Cree collections. If your museum has any collections from our region we would be happy to hear from you! We would also love to have you visit our institute – we are located about 7 hours (driving) north of Montreal, just 3 hours past the touristic Lac St Jean region.
Please feel free to contact me.
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Laura Phillips
Coordinator of Collections & Exhibitions
Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute

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