Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology is world renown for having one of the premier collections of Northwest Coast Indigenous sculptures, totem poles and artifacts anywhere on the planet.
If you’re looking to visit one museum that manages to truly embody Vancouver, then the MOA is definitively the one.
To aid you in your visit we’ve devised this guide to give you all the information you’ll need to make you visit as enjoyable and informative as possible.
Got any questions? Just hit me up in the comments below.
Let’s get started!
The Museum of Anthropology Vancouver
Most visitors are surprised to know that Vancouver lies on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil–Waututh First Nations.
Ergo, to get a true sense of the history of the region then it’s imperative to take the time to learn about the culture and art of the people who called Vancouver home long before Captain Vancouver first sailed to its shores in 1792.
Luckily for you we have the perfect place to do just that!
Home to one of the premier collections of Coastal First Nations art and antiquities anywhere on the planet, the MOA has played a critical role in bringing Indigenous art into the mainstream, both in Canada and beyond.
In addition to being a popular museum and tourist attraction, the MOA is a functioning research and teaching facility and the province’s preeminent Anthropological museum.
While most famous for pieces from famed Haida artist Bill Reid and other Indigenous artists, many are surprised to learn that nearly half of the pieces at the MOA are sourced from Asia and Oceania.
In fact, the museum possesses significant holdings from the Arctic, Latin America, Europe and Africa, making it a truly global Anthropological facility.
In total the MOA collection houses more than 50,000 ethnographical and 535,000 archaeological objects!
This veritable bounty of relics is spread throughout a handful of permanent displays that are further augmented by a rotating cast of temporary exhibits.
You are virtually guaranteed to find something that peaks your interest!
The Museum of Anthropology opened as a department within UBC’s Faculty of Arts in 1949.
The museum moved into to it’s current facility in 1976 to house it’s ever growing collection of antiquities. Its magnificent concrete and glass structure is inspired by the post and beam architecture typical of Indigenous longhouses prior to European contact.
2010 saw the MOA undergo a significant renovation and expansion, which increased it’s size by 50%. This served to enhance it’s public spaces, research infrastructure and archives.
Currently the museum is expanding even further to upgrade it’s facilities for performances and programming.
How to Get There
Address: 6393 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver BC
The museum is nestled in the Northwest corner of the campus of the University of British Columbia, around 8km from Vancouver’s Downtown.
For custom directions click on the Google Maps link above.
Unfortunately UBC is not currently serviced by the Skytrain (though an expansion is in the planning stage). Nevertheless, the MOA is very well serviced by a variety of Translink buses, due to its location in the heart of a university campus.
In fact, the #25,#33,#41,#43,#44,#49,#84,#480 and #99 B-line buses all terminate at the UBC Exchange, just a 10 minute walk away.
For the purposes of this article I’ll focus on the fastest and most efficient route for those staying in the downtown core.
This involves the Canada Line coupled with the 99 B-line express bus. The directions are listed below:
- Enter a downtown station serving the Skytrain’s Canada Line (Waterfront, City Centre or Yaletown). Purchase a one zone ticket ($3.00 or $2.40 with a Compass Card).
- Board a South-bound train bound for Richmond-Brighouse or YVR and stay aboard until you reach Broadway-City Hall Station.
- Exit the station and cross the street to the North-West corner of Broadway and Cambie. Then locate the bus stop that services the 99 B-line express bus (in front of Blenz Coffee).
- Board the bus and stay aboard until the terminus stop at the UBC Exchange Bay 1 (8 stops). Your fare is still good!
From there you have two options:
1) Walk From the UBC Exchange to the MOA
The journey through the heart of the UBC campus should take you around 10 minutes.
Visit the Museum of Anthropology website for a detailed map complete with pictures.
2) Board the #68 UBC Exchange/ Lower Mall Shuttle Bus
You may walk over to UBC Exchange Bay 2 and grab the #68 bus. This bus will drop you in front of the MOA on NW Marine Drive.
*The #68 bus runs approximately every 30 minutes, so you may end up waiting longer than it would take to walk.
For more information on the Vancouver transit system check out our Vancouver Public Transport user guide.
For schedules, visit the Translink website.
The Museum of Anthropology Hours
The MOA and gift shop’s operating hours are listed below:
*The museum is closed on Mondays from Oct 15-May 15
The MOA has a small cafe that offers hot and cold drinks as well as selection of pastries, sandwiches and hot food options.
The hours are listed below:
- Monday (May 16-Oct 14)——10:30am-2:30pm
The Museum of Anthropology Prices
Rates of admission:
- Seniors (65+) and Students—$16
*Children under 6, indigenous people and UBC students are free
**The family rate includes 2 adults and up to 4 children
Exhibitions & Galleries
There are five permanent exhibits at the Museum of Anthropology and we’ll provide a brief overview of each below.
But first it’s important to note that museum staff offers free guided tours of these exhibits. We recommend timing your visit to receive your complimentary 60 minute tour.
Check out the MOA’s Tour Schedule page for more information.
As stated earlier, the MOA is located on the traditional and unceded land of the Musqueam First Nation. As a result, a beautiful collection of contemporary Musqueam art serves to warmly welcome visitors.
These works can be found in the parking lot, at the entrance and in the main lobby.
Highlights include; Salish Footprint and Ancestor Figure by Susan Point and Transformation by Joe Becker. These pieces serve to welcome you both to the Musqueam territory and the museum itself.
The Welcome Plaza is officially named “xʷəńiwən ce:p kʷθəθ nəὠeyəɬ“ loosely translated to “remember your teachings”. That is exactly what these amazing pieces of art will encourage you to do once you walk inside.
And just think, this is only the entrance!
The Great Hall
Upon entering the facility most visitors will begin their journey in the awe-inspiring Great Hall.
This beautiful space is enclosed by 15 metre high glass walls that overlook the Yosef Wosk Reflecting Pool, the UBC Endowment Lands and the Salish Sea below.
This spectacular view will provide you with a glimpse of the type of terrain and wildlife that has served as the inspiration to Coastal First Nations artists for time immemorial.
The awe inspiring results are on display for all to see, including a number of large totem poles, house posts and carvings. Many of these pieces are dated from prior to European contact.
Antiquities such as textiles, feast dishes and even canoes sit along side a wealth of contemporary art from Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit and other Northwest Coast bands.
Notable highlights include; Raven Calling by Robert Davidson, Bone Box by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas and Welcome Figure by Joe David.
The beautiful Haisla War Canoe is always a favourite. Be sure to seize the rare opportunity to view this unique item up close and personal.
The Bill Reid Rotunda
Most visitors are in agreement that the star attraction at the Museum of Anthropology is undoubtedly the Bill Reid Rotunda.
No single artist has done more to increase the popularity of Northwest Coast Indigenous art than legendary Haida artist Bill Reid Jr. (1920-1998).
A skilled jeweller, painter, carver and sculptor, Reid was able to achieve national and global acclaim by expressing the visual traditions of his ancestors in a more contemporary fashion.
Most visitors to Vancouver are likely to have already encountered some of his most famous works.
However, it is at the MOA where you truly gain an appreciation for his genius. After all, it is where you’ll find the largest collection of his works located anywhere!
The famous Raven and the First Men is the centrepiece of the rotunda. Carved from a massive chunk of yellow cedar, the sculpture portrays an important Haida creation myth, where a Raven discovers the first men in a clamshell along the shore.
You will also get a glimpse of this Haida master’s beginnings, with an extensive collection of his gold, silver, bronze and argillite jewellery and carvings on display.
Also check out the Bill Reid Gallery downtown.
The Multiversity Galleries
The Multiversity Galleries are home to the majority of the MOA’s international research collection. This includes over 9000 antiquities and ethnographic objects from Asia, Oceania, Africa, Europe and Latin America.
Think items such as; Buddha statues, pottery, clothing and paintings. For something a little more Vancouver, check out the massive collection of Kwakwaka’wakw masks arranged neatly in ritual order.
There is also an extensive collection of baskets, stone carvings and paintings from other Coastal First Nations groups, the Inuit and other Indigenous communities around the world.
To traverse this large collection, try the Innovative Digital Catologue Terminal System (MOACAT). This device allows you to search the museums entire collection with the touch of a finger.
You can search the archives on the MOA Website to see what tickles your fancy.
Koerner European Ceramic Gallery
If you’re a fan a traditional European ceramics, the Koerner European Ceramic Gallery is home to more than 600 of the finest examples of European Pottery.
These pieces are sourced from the personal collection of lumber magnate and philanthropist Dr. Walter C. Koerner.
The most popular items are the tin-glazed and lead-glazed stonewear and earthenwear from the 16th-19th century.
Don’t miss it, as the collection is widely considered to be the finest of it’s kind anywhere in North America!
The Museum Grounds
At this point you might be under the impression that you have seen all the MOA has to offer, but you’re not done yet!
Upon exiting the back door, follow the path away from the museum. You will soon encounter two massive house boards carved by Musqueam artist Susan Point.
There will also be a model Haida house typical of those encountered in a pre-contact Haida Village. The only difference being this home was constructed by famed Haida artist Bill Reid.
Flanking the home you’ll find the coup de grace, a collection of memorial and mortuary totem poles from the Haida, Gitxsan and Kwakwaka’wakw nations.
The buildings sit adjacent to the Yosef Wosk Reflecting Pool, which further enlivens the site and reflects the buildings and sky.
Just sit back, enjoy the fresh air and admire the beauty of these beautiful objects that are used to commemorate ancestors and recount important legends.
We promise, it will be a spiritual experience.
The permanent exhibits above are usually augmented by a number of temporary exhibits that are usually housed in the Audain Gallery.
Here is a quick list of some of the past exhibits to give you an idea of what you can expect to encounter.
- Marking the Infinite (Australian Aboriginal Art)
- Traces of Words (Art & Calligraphy from Asia)
- Without Masks (Contemporary Afro-Cuban Art)
- Safar/Voyage (Contemporary Middle Eastern Art)
- Speaking to Memory (Images from St. Michael’s Residential School)
- Arts of Resistance (Politics and the Past in Latin America)
- Amazonia (Rights of Nature in the Amazon)
Be sure to check out the What’s On Section of the MOA website to see what is happening while you are in town.
Museum of Anthropology Visitor Tips
1) Visit via the 99 B-line Express Bus
If you’re taking transit from downtown to visit the MOA, make sure you visit via the 99 B-line down Broadway in conjunction with the Canada Line.
This express service only makes 8 stops on it’s journey to UBC, which will shave 10 minutes off of your travel time when compared with a non-express route.
2) Take the free tour
We highly recommend timing your visit to coincide with one of the free 60 minute tours offered by museum staff.
Unfortunately, Indigenous history, traditions and legends remain little known to most Canadians, let alone those from other countries.
The MOA’s knowledgable and friendly staff will place many of the items you encounter into their proper historical context and provide you with important background information.
But perhaps most importantly, they’ll make it more fun!
3) Budget 2-3 hours for your visit
The MOA tends to be amongst the most popular museums in Vancouver. The unique subject matter coupled with the rather vuliminous collection means that most visitors will need at least 2 hours to see all of the exhibits.
If you decide to take a tour you may want to budget a little extra time to peruse the exhibits on your own. Be sure to time your visit accordingly.
4) Check Out the Raven and the First Men Sculpture
The highlight for most visitors tends to be Bill Reid’s famous Raven and the First Men.
Make sure to check out this famous piece, and the rest of the Bill Reid Rotunda to see Coastal First Nations artwork at it’s finest.
5) Take a walk around the grounds
The museum entrance is chocked full of spectacular Musqueam artwork.
These works serve to welcome you to their traditional territory in much the same manner as their ancestors would have done generations prior.
The outdoor exhibit around back houses a beautiful collection of totem poles, house boards and a traditional Haida house, all sitting adjacent to a beautiful reflecting pool.
The MOA grounds are almost a site amongst themselves, so be sure not to ignore one last incredible photo opportunity.
Where is the Museum of Anthropology?
The Museum of Anthropology is located at 6393 NW Marine Drive on the campus of the University of British Columbia near Vancouver’s Westside.
How to get to the Museum of Anthropology?
The best way to get the Museum of Anthropology from downtown is to first take the Canada Line to Broadway-City Hall Station.
Then transfer to the 99 B-line bus at Broadway and Cambie and stay aboard until it terminates at the UBC Exchange.
The MOA is located just a 10 minute walk away.
When is the Museum of Anthropology open?
The Museum of Anthropology is open from 10:00am-5:00pm 7 days a week, except for Thursdays, when it is open from 10:00am-9:00pm.
The museum is closed on Mondays from October 15 to May 15.
How much is admission to the Museum of Anthropology?
Admission to the Museum of Anthropology costs $18 for adults, $16 for seniors (55+) and students and $47 for families (2 adults + 4 children).
Admission is free for Indigenous peoples, children under 6 and UBC students, staff and faculty.
Well this article is just about history!
But we can’t quite let you go yet.
If you’ve got any other questions, don’t be afraid to hit me up on our Facebook page or in the comment section below! As always, I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.
We sincerely thank you for seizing the opportunity to learn about BC’s First Nations culture on your visit to Vancouver.
As they say in Hul’qumi’num, the language of the Musqueam people.
Huyéwulh, or bye for now!