ćəsnaʔəm, the City before the City
Exhibiting pre-Indigenous belonging in Vancouver
in Curatopia
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ćəsnaʔəm, the City before the City is a boundary-breaking exhibition that has successfully challenged the museum world to revisit who is the curator and who is the audience. This chapter provides an Indigenous-framed insight into kin accountability as (re)presented to the museum world from the local tribal/aboriginal community perspective of Musqueam. The exhibition was simultaneously displayed in three venues of the Vancouver city region, each providing multiple perspectives of the original inhabitants of a village named c̓əsnaʔəm more than five thousand years old. While the central city venue at the Museum of Vancouver was high-tech and pitched to an international museum visitor, the Museum of Anthropology exhibit was uniquely ephemeral, transient and aimed at shifting preconceived perceptions of what it means to be a modern aboriginal raised in a city established on thousands of years of unbroken occupation. The most challenging of the three exhibits was to be found in the Musqueam village Culture Centre. In this instance the art and treasures were displayed in a manner that required elders to provide interpretation and the audience is their own. Three exhibits, three boundary-breaking contact zones, one people, Musqueam.

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