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Manitoba museums win Governor General’s History Award

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A collaboration between two Manitoba museums has been recognized by the Governor General’s Awards.

The project called “Gathering: Indigenous Beadwork, Embroidery and Quillwork” won the 2023 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Museums.

The award recognizes significant achievement in the historical field and encourages standards of excellence in presentation, preservation and interpretation of history.

The winning project is a collaboration between the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library and Ross House Museum.

“It is often larger, more well-funded museums, more well-staffed museums that get these types of awards, but there’s so much happening in small museums,” said Andrea Reichert, curator at the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library.

The project is billed as an ambitious initiative to uncover, research, exhibit and celebrate pre-1900 Indigenous beadwork, embroidery and quillwork artifacts held by museums throughout Manitoba.

A team of Indigenous artists, historians and elders researched more than 100 pieces from nine participating museum collections.

Reichert says the project gathered people with artworks taken from vaults to hear each other’s stories and step beyond a traditional exhibit to give new kinds of access to communities across Manitoba.

The public was invited to hands-on workshops and interactive programming, allowing them to experience the pieces and explore traditional Indigenous art.

Additionally, some of the historical pieces were exhibited at the C2 Centre for Craft in Winnipeg. A video tour of the exhibit is available online, as well as a database of the project’s research.

Reichert said the project was very much a group effort with an important goal.

“Reconciliation and working with and for Indigenous communities and individuals is important, so this is part of our efforts to do that.”

The award will be presented by Governor General Mary Simon at an upcoming ceremony in Ottawa. Reichert plans to attend alongside her fellow project leads, Eric Napier Strong and Margaret Firlotte.

“I hope this award means that more people hear about what we do here and the project in particular,” Reichert said.

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