Shashish|Anutshish : a virtual museum to explore past and present First Nations culture.


First Nations Design Masterpieces
Design and material culture

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First Nations Design Masterpieces

Not only does a bond exist between past and present First Nations creations, they are linked by a chain of handing down skills from person to person. It is in this perspective that a collection of First Nations design masterpieces was created by three designers. Over one hundred functional objects, most of which were conserved in museums, were selected by these designers and classified according to different criteria: their ecosystem of origin, culture of origin, materials and techniques used to create them, and their general use (to eat, hold, store, transport, draw, clothe), just to name a few.

The database has thorough information on each object: photographs and detailed information, raw materials used, origins, cultural origins, how it is made, ornamentation, shape, size, colours, use, persons who regularly use (or used) it, etc.

This concept in virtual presentation represents a valuable learning tool. The juxtaposition of traditional cultural objects and contemporary ones by Élisabeth Kaine, Design Professor at UQAC, has led to new discoveries, a better understanding of First Peoples culture and territories, new attitudes towards traditional and contemporary design, and the promotion and enhancement of First Peoples identity.

Élisabeth Kaine personally experienced these benefits during various creative Design et culture matérielle workshops. In 1996 and 1997, she taught these workshops to grade 5 students from Inukjuak, an Inuit community . Asked to draw activities they enjoyed doing, the young students were led to draw and design new ideas for transportating and storing items. They used the computer to examine pieces of this collection (First Nations Design Masterpieces) and, in doing so, discovered and explored design concepts from their traditional culture as well as other cultures. This well-organized pedagogical activity taught them the distinctive characteristics of their work and their culture as they created the piece of work they had themselves designed. Once they had completed their designs, the children proudly exhibited them at a local village exhibition. The workshop guided the youth towards exploring material culture and discovering the bond which exists in handing down skills and knowledge from person to person.

Ever since, numerous people have added links to this chain, designing creative objects which convey an eclectic mix of shapes, design, techniques, or use.

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