Sturgeon Harpoon Knowledge Web wins Governor General’s History Award

Beaty Biodiversity Museum and Musqueam First Nation Collaboration Wins Governor General’s History Award

Perspectives on Biodiversity – Sturgeon Harpoon Knowledge Web is the recipient of the 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Museums: History Alive!

The Governor General’s History Awards recognize recipients’ efforts to further an interest in Canadian history and heritage, and honours exceptional achievements in this area. The awards were presented by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada on Jan. 20, at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa.

Photos by MCpl Mathieu Gaudreault, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2020


Art by BBM Digital Media Specialist ©Derek Tan


Perspectives on Biodiversity – Sturgeon Harpoon Knowledge Web  truly brings history alive. The innovative exhibit explores the complex and sophisticated web of knowledge and relationships that surround any one species or belonging, presenting and preserving a significant part of British Columbia’s history and cultural heritage.

This “living exhibition” involves many components, centred around the creation of a 35-foot-long sturgeon harpoon — a modern piece made by Musqueam Knowledge Keeper Morgan Guerin generations after the Musqueam ceased to fish for sturgeon. The many components of the harpoon each carry great cultural significance, and the exhibition uses immersive 360 environments, visitor-activated audio and video, and real touchable specimens that are woven together to create a cohesive and deeply engaging narrative.

Content — written, audio, and video — is told through the first-person narrative of the Musqueam First Nation and is a true preservation of an important part of British Columbia’s cultural history and modern-day indigenous culture, parts of which have already been irretrievably lost.

According to the Musqueam First Nation, “to Musqueam, a sturgeon is more than simply a sturgeon. It’s an entry point to aspects of language, territory, health, technology, and our society, and the respect and responsibilities that accompany them. It is part of a larger web of mutually dependent knowledge. When a link in this web is broken, it’s a loss to the whole web of knowledge and to our relationships.”

“This exhibition is a living resource and repository for knowledge that can be held and transferred to future generations. As a true living exhibition, sharings from Musqueam knowledge keepers will continue to be added to this site, extending this web of knowledge and deepening its impact,” explains Yukiko Stranger-Galey, curator of this exhibition.

Innovation, integrity, impact and inspiration exemplify the ways in which the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Musqueam First Nation worked closely together, ensuring that an authentic understanding of the present-day of this way of knowing places it steadfastly in the future.

“The award is much appreciated recognition of the BBM’s sustained efforts at creating evocative displays through a combination of artistic and technical skill and establishing collaborative work with our Musqueam partners.” – Dr. Eric Taylor, Director of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum

“With almost 15 years experience in science museums, this project stands apart with the depth of its personal and emotional impact – not only for our visitors but also for myself and the entire project team.

At the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, we explore biodiversity as an interconnected web of species, so the opportunity to explore it as an interconnected web of knowledge, language, and sharings from Musqueam knowledge keepers is not only an honour but also a responsibility, as we recognise different perspectives and ways of knowing.

Our evolving relationship with Morgan Guerin, Jason Woolman, and others from the Musqueam community is at the very heart of this exhibition, and I am truly touched that this award recognises the cultural importance, authentic depth, and wide-reaching value of this collaboration.” – Yukiko Stranger-Galey, Exhibitions Manager at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, and Curator of Perspectives on Biodiversity – Sturgeon Harpoon Knowledge Web

About the Beaty Biodiversity Museum

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is at 2212 Main Mall on the University of British Columbia campus. Dubbed the “Best Collection of Weird Things in Drawers,” this natural history museum exhibits more than 2 million specimens divided among six collections: the Cowan Tetrapod Collection, The Herbarium, the Spencer Entomological Collection, the Fish Collection, the Marine Invertebrate Collection and the Fossil Collection. The Museum is home to Canada’s largest blue whale skeleton, which is suspended in the two-story glass atrium.

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. We thank the Musqueam for their ongoing partnership with the museum in furthering our understanding of culturally diverse ways of knowing our world.