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Musqueam Cultural Exhibition Wins Canadian Public History Prize

Myles Constable, MOV

(Vancouver, BC) — The Canadian Committee on Public History awarded its 5th annual Public History Prize Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in Ottawa. The winning project emerged from a curatorial partnership between the Museum of Vancouver, Museum of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, and Musqueam Nation. The collaboration culminated with the creation of c'esna?em: the city before the city, a multi-site exhibition project.

This multi-disciplinary, community-based Indigenous research project resulted in a series of three museum exhibitions (all currently on display) at the Museum of Vancouver (2015-2020), Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (2015-2016), and Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Centre (2015-2016).

c'esna?em: the city before the city examines the history of Vancouver from the point of view of the Musqueam First Nation. It brings a critical history of city building, colonialism and dispossession, museum collecting practices, and Indigenous activism to public audiences. The project also engages many varied groups in discussions about conflicting and complex interpretations of Indigenous history and heritage sites as well as current debates about heritage and development in the city.

As Musqueam cultural advisor Larry Grant explains, “c'esna?em: the city before the city aims at ‘righting history’ by creating a space for Musqueam to share their knowledge, culture and history and to highlight the community’s role in shaping the City of Vancouver.”

“We are thrilled that the committee has recognized this project as an example of innovative scholarship and public engagement,” says Susan Roy, historian at the University of Waterlooand MOV guest curator.

The award recognizes work that achieves high standards of original research, scholarship, and presentation; brings an innovative public history contribution to its audience; and serves as a model for future work, advancing the field of public history in Canada.

Upon accepting the award in Ottawa, Roy shared, "The c'esna?em exhibition team is honoured to receive this acknowledgement that recognizes the importance of developing highly collaborative curatorial practices to reflect and promote new understanding of Indigenous history in Canada." 

For more information about the c'esna?em: the city before the city exhibitions, please visit:

More information about past Public History Prize winners can be viewed here:

About Musqueam First Nation:
Musqueam First Nation are traditional h?n?q??min??m? speaking people whose territory, and dozens of villages, encompasses much of what is now the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Extensive networks of trade and relations radiate up and down the coast and into the interior. Although a metropolitan city has developed in the heart of Musqueam territory, the community maintains strong cultural and traditional beliefs and these networks. Families teach and pass on this traditional knowledge and history to their people, to keep culture and traditions strong.

Musqueam people continue to thrive and evolve, with a population of over 1,200 people; relying on the guiding principles of knowing who they are and where they come from and the responsibilities they share. Nearly half of Musqueam lives on a very small portion of their traditional territory, known as the Musqueam Indian Reserve #2, located south of Marine Drive near the mouth of the Fraser River.

About Museum of Vancouver:

The Museum of Vancouver (MOV) connects Vancouverites to each other and connects Vancouver to the world. The museum is a gathering place that encourages social engagement and inspires conversation about the future. MOV exhibitions and collections invite exploration of contemporary issues and stories from the past. MOV activities ignite a passion for Vancouver and its people. The museum, an enthusiastic advocate for the city, is an independent non-profit organization that depends on support from the community.

About Museum of Anthropology
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 building overlooking mountains and sea. MOA houses more than 42,000 ethnographic objects and 535,000 archaeological objects, including many, which originate from the Northwest Coast of British Columbia. The Koerner Gallery features one of Canada’s most important European ceramics collections, while MOA's recently opened Multiversity Galleries provide public access to more than 10,000 objects from around the world.