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Travelling exhibition at Swift Current Museum explores history and culture of the Métis Nation

Posted on 3 May 2023 by Matthew Liebenberg
City General Manager of Cultural and Aquatic Services Melissa Shaw with paintings from the museum’s own collection that are on display with the travelling exhibition.

By Matthew Liebenberg

The latest travelling exhibition on display at the Swift Current Museum explores the history and culture of the Métis Nation and the way in which people of Métis descent were portrayed in historical photographs and art.

The exhibition Hiding in Plain Sight: Discovering the Métis Nation in the Archival Records of Library and Archives Canada will be on display at the Swift Current Museum until July 8.

It was developed by Library and Archives Canada in collaboration with the Manitoba Métis Federation and the Métis National Council, and with the support of the Government of Canada.

Melissa Shaw, the City’s general manager of cultural and aquatic services, said the exhibition is relevant for several reasons.

“This exhibit provides information about Métis and highlight some of the untold stories, the untold heroes and the untold people that we haven’t heard about as much,” she mentioned. “We need to make sure that their stories are out and that we learn more about it and the importance of it.”

The display panels in the exhibition are arranged to provide various details about the Métis Nation.

“I really like the flow of the exhibition,” she said. “The central panels focus on people who were influential in the Métis Nation and then the panels on the outside focus on different symbols of Métis culture.”

The display panels include images from the Library and Archives Canada art and photographic collections. They provide visual presentations of Métis life and individuals. One section is a display of images of known and possible Métis.

The exhibition title Hiding in Plain Sight is a reference to how colonial views influenced perceptions about people from other cultures. This resulted in the misidentification of Métis individuals or their omission from the historical record. Various images offer examples of how Métis were described with terms that were not only generic, but incorrect and negative.

The exhibition also challenges visitors to use the information provided about Métis culture to look for clues in images that identify people as being from Métis descent.

This travelling exhibition has already been on display at several locations across western Canada and it came to Swift Current from North Battleford.

However, a unique and exclusive aspect of this exhibition in Swift Current is the inclusion of several artworks by Saskatoon artist George Gingras. These paintings were the result of a partnership between the Swift Current Museum and the Gabriel Dumont Institute.

They were originally displayed at the Swift Current Museum in 2013 in an exhibition called Akin to the Land: A History of Métis in Southwest Saskatchewan.

“We haven’t had this shown in numerous years,” Shaw said. “So we thought this was a beautiful time to put the artwork back up for display.”

These paintings were inspired by the Métis presence in southwest Saskatchewan and they were displayed at several locations around the region in 2014. They are therefore an ideal addition to the Library and Archives Canada travelling exhibition in Swift Current.

“It was a beautiful opportunity to partner them together,” she said. “When we approached Library and Archives of Canada to see if we could do this, they were more than happy to let us tie a local content to the exhibit.”

Detailed booklets about these paintings are available at the exhibition. It includes a lot of additional information about the history of Métis settlement in southwest Saskatchewan.

“It’s quite interesting, because in the panels and in the booklet we even see some duplication of the imagery that is in this exhibit,” she said. “It’s completely coincidental, but really highlights the importance of these conversations.”

Admission to the Swift Current Museum and this exhibition is free. The museum is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 1-5 p.m.

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