Peter Macnair's Curricula vitalae
Peter Macnair was Curator of Anthropology at the Royal British Columbia Museum for more than 30 years, 25 of these as chief ethnologist. Under his guidance the acclaimed exhibits on the First Peoples of British Columbia were designed and installed. Macnair involved aboriginal people closely in the design and manufacture of these exhibits with the result that many people brought more than their knowledge and expertise to their work. For example, Chief Jonathan Hunt permitted the museum to build his giukwtsi or big house, with all his private privileges and prerogatives and then to erect it inside the museum as a living exhibit. The award-winning exhibits attract over one million visitors a year and are as immediate today as they were when they opened in 1977.
As curator he directed programs in research, interpretation, collections management, photographic services, public programming and, over two decades, he supervised the work of eight First Nations carvers. His area of expertise is the coastal peoples of the North Pacific from northern California to Alaska, in particular the potlatch and traditional life of the Kwakwaka'wakw and the material culture of the Haida, especially carving in argillite and precious metals.
Macnair consulted with the senior staff of the American Museum of Natural History as they prepared the major traveling exhibition Chiefly Feasts, the Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch. The exhibit featured the work of anthropologist Franz Boas and his collaborator George Hunt of Fort Rupert on Vancouver Island. Hunt was the son of Tlingit noblewoman Anislaga (Mary Ebetts) and Robert Hunt, the chief factor for the Hudson Bay Company.
During research for the Chiefly Feasts exhibit Macnair discovered original field notes relating to the Kwakwaka'wakw collections in the American Museum of Natural History. Previously unknown and unrecognized, these important ethnographic records formed the basis of the successful exhibit labels and catalogue descriptions.
Macnair is sought after throughout the United States and Canada as a leading expert on the material culture and the ethnographic record of the Pacific Northwest. He serves on acquisitions committees for several museums and for two decades was an expert examiner for the Cultural Property Review Board. He lectures to both scholarly and lay audiences, and acts as a resource person for field study programs.
Since the late 1970s he has been the resource anthropologist on more than 40 field study programs offered by the University of British Columbia, Royal B.C. Museum, UBC Museum of Anthropology, Campbell River Museum, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Southwest Museum, Los Angeles, Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University. All the programs have been based on board various ships with destinations along the British Columbia and Alaska coasts: Haida Gwaii, Glacier Bay, Johnstone Strait to name a few. More than 1200 people have participated in these programs in groups usually ranging from 12 to 25 people, sometimes numbering 100.
Macnair left the Royal British Columbia Museum in March 1997 and joined the firm of Stewart Macnair Inc. as a partner. From July 1997 until the present he has been Guest Curator, with Chief Robert Joseph, for the exhibition Down From the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast and is co-author of the associated publication.
Recent Lectures, Programs and Consultations:
August 1999 Guest curator of Down From the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa Oklahoma
August-October Guest curator with Jay Stewart of To the Totem Forests: Emily Carr and
1999 Contemporaries Interpret Coastal Villages. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
November 1998 Panelist. Management and Legal Affairs Symposium, Canadian Museums Association. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario
October 1998 & Guest curator of Down From the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest February 1999 Coast. McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinburg.
August 1998 Interviewed in In the Land of the Totem Poles. Nestor Productions with Centre National de la Cinématographie, Ministère de la Culture. Paris, France.
July 1997-June 1998 Guest Curator with Chief Robert Joseph Down From the
Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast. Exhibition at the
Vancouver Art Gallery. Vancouver, B.C.
January-May 1998 Repatriation Strategies for Kwakwaka'wakw Material Culture.
Research and report for the Board of Trustees of the U'mista
Cultural Centre, Alert Bay, B.C.
January 1998 Consultation for the American Museum of Natural History, New York on their exhibition of Northwest Coast totem poles
January 1998 Consultation on Kwakwaka'wakw collections with Chief William Cranmer for the U'mista Cultural Centre, Alert Bay at the National Museum of the American Indian, Bronx, New York
September 1997 Cultural Traditions and Native Art of the Pacific Northwest. Eight day field study program on Vancouver Island. National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C.
April 29, 1997 Consultation with Old Massett Cultural Committee, Old Massett
April 28, 1997 Consultation with Qay'llnagaay Heritage Society, Skidegate
April 27, 1997 Repatriation Strategies for Haida Material Culture-Guest speaker at the Annual General Meeting of the Haida Gwaii Museum, Skidegate
March 1997 Macnair joined Stewart Macnair Inc., Cultural Consultants, Victoria as a partner.
March 1997 New Directions Northwest-An illustrated exploration of contemporary Northwest coast aboriginal art. The Stonington Gallery. Seattle, Washington.
March 1997 New Directions Northwest in Context: Gifts of the Spirit-An illustrated exploration of contemporary Northwest Coast aboriginal art in association with the exhibition Gifts of the Spirit, Works by 19th century and Contemporary Native American Artists at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.
March 1997 Inheritance and Innovation-A Legacy of Living Cultures. An illustrated lecture on the Kwakwaka'wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island and the Olympic peninsula at the Museum of Cultural and Natural History, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
September 1996 Pacific Northwest Coast Indian Art and Culture. Eight day field study program on Vancouver Island for twenty-two participants. The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
May 26, 1996 New Directions Northwest: Recent Paintings, Drawings and Graphics. An illustrated lecture exploring the works of a handful of Northwest Coast aboriginal artists who are using new techniques, materials and themes to express their contemporary artistic interests. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.
April/May 1996 New Directions Northwest: Recent Paintings, Drawings and Graphics. An exhibition of selected works discussed in the lecture above. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.
September 1994 Journey to the North End of the World, Exploring Traditional Kwakwaka'wakw Art and Culture. Seven day field study program for the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California.
August/ Consultation with NHK Television-Tokyo on production of
September 1991 one hour documentary on Northwest Coast traditional fishing practices.
1989-91 Consultant to Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch curated by Dr. Aldona Jonaitis, Vice President, Public Program at the American Museum of Natural History, New York.
October 1989 Mythic Worlds of the Kwakiutl Indians. Guest lecture in the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian Lecture Series: Four People Four Worlds: Pagago, Kwakiutl, Pueblo and Navajo. Santa Fe, New Mexico.
August 1984-89 Exploring Johnstone Strait: A Field Study Program to observe the killer whale (orca) in its natural and supernatural habitat. Campbell River Museum and University of British Columbia.
May 1984-1989 A Journey to the North End of the World: Exploring Traditional Kwakwaka'wakw Culture. Field study program aboard the MV Gikumi and the MV Union Jack. Campbell River Museum and the University of British Columbia.
May 1990 & 1991 Return Journeys to the North End of the World: Further Explorations - the Kwakwaka'wakw and European Explorers 200 Years Ago. Field study program aboard the MV Lukwa. Campbell River Museum.
March 1989 Tradition and Innovation in Northwest Coast Indian Art. Lecture at the Portland Art Museum.
June 1977-1986 Queen Charlotte Islands: A Field Study Cruise. Annual ten day trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands to examine the botany, marine biology and anthropology of the islands and their original inhabitants, the Haida. University of British Columbia.
May 1986 Lectures and Demonstrations of Kwakwaka'wakw Dances for graduate students in Theater Studies at the City University of New York, Manhattan.
March 1986 Potlatch and Theatre Among Northwest Coast Indians. Guest lecture at the British Museum, London, England.
February/ Coordinator of Kwakwaka'wakw Dance Troup hosted by Arts
March 1986 Worldwide in Great Britain. Ten venues in three weeks including
London, Swinton, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Nottingham.
February 1986 The Kwakwaka'wakw Winter Ceremonial. Guest lecture at the Maxwell Museum, University of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1999 To the Totem Forests: Emily Carr and Contemporaries Interpret Coastal Villages. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria August-October 1999; Vancouver Art Gallery December 1999-May 2000; Kamloops Art Gallery June-July 2000.
1997-1998 Down From the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast. Vancouver Art Gallery June-October 1998; McMichael Canadian Collection December 1998-February 1999; Portland Art Museum April-July 1999; Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa August-November 1999; Southwest Museum, Los Angeles December 1999-May 2000.
1996-1997 Whales: The Enduring Legacy exhibit Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.
1996 New Directions Northwest. Royal British Columbia Museum. Victoria.
1993-96 Sewidi's Adventures in the Undersea Realm at the Campbell River Museum. An exhibit of 20 contemporary Kwakwaka'wakw masks made by different artists depicting a complex dance narrative belonging to a chiefly family. Campbell River.
1988-1991 Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch at the American Museum of Natural History. Curatorial consultant to senior staff. New York.
1988 Storyline Development for 12,000 square foot permanent exhibit for the Museum at Campbell River.
1988 The Bear exhibit (ethnology section) at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.
1984 The Legacy, Continuing Traditions in Northwest Coast Art. A major travelling exhibit of traditional and contemporary Northwest Coast Indian art. Southwest Museum, Los Angeles.
1982 The Copper That Came From Heaven. A major exhibit of Kwakwaka'wakw Indian winter dance paraphernalia at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. Vancouver
1981 Argillite. A permanent exhibit of 250 Haida argillite carvings at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.
1980 The Legacy, Continuing Traditions in Northwest Coast Art. A major travelling exhibit of traditional and contemporary Northwest Coast Indian art at the Edinburgh Festival in 1980 and subsequently to other venues. Edinburgh and Keighly.
1974 - 77 First Peoples. Permanent exhibits on the history and material culture of all the indigenous peoples of British Columbia at the Royal British Columbia Museum. Victoria.
Macnair, Peter L., Robert Joseph and Bruce Grenville Down From the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast. Douglas & McIntyre/Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver. May 1998.
Macnair, Peter L. Robert Davidson: Walking the Knife Edge in Robert Davidson: A Voice from the Inside. Exhibition catalogue. Derek Simpkins Gallery of Tribal Art. Vancouver. 1992.
Macnair, Peter L. Henderson Follows in Father's Artistic Steps in North Island News. May 17, 1992.
Jonaitis, Aldona and Peter L. Macnair The Treasures of Sewidi. American Museum of Natural History magazine. New York 1991.
Macnair, Peter L. Trends in Northwest Coast Indian Art 1880 - 1950 in Shadows of the Sun. German edition 1988, English edition 1993. Folk Museum of Switzerland.
Macnair, Peter L. From Kwakiutl to Kwakwaka'wakw in Native Peoples: The Canadian Experience, eds. R.B. Morrison and C.R. Wilson. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto 1986.
Macnair, Peter L. et al. The Magic Leaves: A History of Haida Argillite Carving. British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria 1984.
Macnair, Peter L. The Northwest Coast Collections: Legacy of a Living Culture. Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, Chicago 1982.
Macnair, Peter L. et al. The Legacy, Continuing Traditions in Northwest Coast Indian Art. British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria 1980.
Macnair, Peter L. Kwakiutl Winter Dances: A Re-enactment in Stones, Bones and Skin: Ritual and Shamanic Art. The Society for Art Publications, Toronto 1977.
Macnair, Peter L. Potlatch at Alert Bay: Inheritance and Innovation, Northwest Coast Indian Artists Today in Stones, Bones and Skin: Ritual and Shamanic Art. The Society for Art Publications, Toronto 1977.
Macnair, Peter L. Description Notes on the Kwakiutl Manufacture of Eulachon Oil in Syesis, Vol. 4, Parts 1 and 2, British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria 1971.
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