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Distanced visiting: improving visual access to museum collections for Indigenous audiences

In 2021, during the pandemic, I conducted research on 2-camera zoom techniques to explore the logistics of creating better remote visits for Indigenous community members with museum collections located at a distance from them. With support from an Isabel Bader fellowship at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen's University, and with the assistance of graduate intern Anne-Marie Guérin, I was able to link a group of experienced quillworkers in Manitoba with an important historic collection of quillwork at the Royal Museums Greenwich in the UK. The process led to discussions with many other museum colleagues around North America and the UK who are exploring similar techniques to supplement in-person visits by Indigenous Peoples to museum collections. 

Image: detail of straps of bandolier bag, M71-004, Agnes Etherintgon Art Centre, Queen's University.

Two-Camera Zoom home studio

I started with the most basic setup, just an extra webcam mounted to an extending arm over a work surface. By using switch screen/camera on Zoom, it's possible to move between a presenter interface and a more detailed view of a cultural item.

Extreme close-ups and discussion groups

Anne-Marie figured out how to use OBS software to shift between presenter view, extreme close-up, and then move the item on screen. The quilling group in Manitoba were critical of our initial efforts, which made them seasick, but encouraged us to refine and try again. They were also fascinated by the extreme close-up images of beads on historic items!

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An early trial...not quite right but a start. Many thanks to Anne-Marie Guerin for working with OBS software and Sebastian Deline for starting us off in a good way, and for the photograph.
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Overseas virtual visit

We tried again, this time with staff at the National Maritime Museum/Royal Museums Greenwich in London, England operating cameras and software. They did an amazing job, enabling the Manitoba quillwork group to explore quilled items collected by Sir George Back from the Franklin expeditions. This screengrab shows participants, a moccasin, and a closeup of the quillwork technique on the vamp.

Team effort

Thank you/miigwech/marsi to:

  • the Manitoba quillwork group convened by Jennine Krauchi and Maureen Matthews for your patient and enquiring participation.

  • staff at the National Maritime Museum/Royal Museums Greenwich for accepting the challenge.

  • staff at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre

  • Anne Marie Guerin for thinking outside the conservation box and developing OPS skills

  • Sebastian Deline for cultural guidance as we developed this way of visiting

  • Isabel Bader for funding for this project.

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Moccasins, Back collection, National Maritime Museum/ Royal Museums Greenwich
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