Canadian Museum of Civilization explores religion
By Robert White | Wednesday, January 11, 2012
This beautifully detailed aron kodesh (Torah ark) was made by a Montréal carver in 1923 for the congregation Sons of Israel in Glace Bay, Cape Breton Island. Wood, paint. Courtesy Canadian Museum of Civilization.
GATINEAU, QCThe Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) has gone to the gods.
A new exhibit, "God(s): A User's Guide," takes a look at how important religion is in the lives of every day Canadians.
"Religion is a topic people hear a lot about in media, from fellow workers and students and neighbours," says exhibit curator Stephen Inglis. "But we don't know much about [their religions]. This is a chance to present information in interesting and comparative mode."
"God(s): A User's Guide" has its roots in a similar exhibit developed by the Museum of Europe and Tempora SA in Brussels. Inglis felt the topic might be something North Americans would be interested in and CMC partnered with the Musée de la civilisation de Québec to adapt it to a Canadian context. The exhibit debuted in Quebec City and ran from November 2010 to September 2011.
"This exhibit presents an opportunity to talk about worship, belief and ceremony," says Inglis. "It's not about the history of religion; it's about today, about beliefs that are current."
"God(s): A User's Guide", focuses on the big questions, "What's the meaning of life? How should we live? And how can we make contact with the sacred?" It then shows how 17 different religious traditions (including subsets within those groupings) answer those questions.
Taking up 650 square metre (7,000 square feet) of spaceone of the museum's larger temporary exhibits"God(s): A User's Guide" uses 225 sacred objects or artifacts to explore 11 themes: points of reference, divinities, passages, worship, places, body, cycles, voices, beyond, intercessors, and conflict and coexistence.
Artifacts and objects include a print depicting Jesus Christ in the distinctive graphic style of the Tsimshian, a West Coast First Nation; an Indonesian wooden sculpture of the eagle god Garuda; and an elaborately decorated Torah ark carved in 1923 by a Montreal artisan for the Jewish community in Glace Bay, Cape Breton Island.
"We replaced all the artifacts from the European version with things from our collection and the Quebec City collection," says Inglis.
Intended to be an overview of religious beliefs, visitors can continue their discussions and reflections through some of the CMC's permanent exhibits: one which relates the various First Nation creation stories in the First Peoples Hall, an authentic Ukrainian Orthodox church transported from Smoky Lake, Alberta and rebuilt within the museum and a "Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall" tribute to Saint Brother Andre, founder of Montreal's St. Joseph's Oratory.
The CMC exhibit, "God(s): A User's Guide" runs until September 3, 2012. For more information visit www.civilization.ca/gods.