Images on Stone: the Secrets of Rock Art in Canada
Musée de la civilisation
Astonishing, mysterious images drawn or painted on rock walls or carved in stone across the Canadian landscape: rock art reflects the cultures of Indigenous Peoples who have been living on the territory for thousands of years. To provide the public with an opportunity to discover the wealth of this Indigenous cultural heritage, the Musée de la civilisation will present the Images on Stone: Rock art in Canada online exhibition on the institution's website starting January 17, 2019.
The project funded primarily by the investment program of the Virtual Museum of Canada is the outcome of a partnership between the Musée de la civilisation, the Akufen creative studio, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the Air Inuit regional airline. The project was made possible through the significant contribution of several members of the scientific community, national and provincial park employees and key figures from Indigenous Nations concerned with the sites selected for the exhibition: Mi'gmaq, in Kejimkujik (Nova Scotia), Innu, in Pepeshapissinikan (Quebec), Inuit, in Qajartalik (Nunavik), Blackfoot, in Áísínai'pi, at the Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park (Alberta) and the Hupacasath First Nation, in K'aka'win (British Colombia).
A rich, mostly unknown heritage
By exploring the Images on Stone. Rock Art in Canada exhibition online, the public will discover the mysteries surrounding the many rock drawings and carvings found throughout Canada. People will also learn about the various scientific and cultural aspects of this age-old phenomenon more widespread in North America than generally believed. Featuring encyclopaedic contents and a selection of five sites representative of the cultural and geographical diversity of rock art in Canada, the exhibition will highlight the means used to produce rock art, the significance of graphic contents, the Indigenous cultural communities associated with each site, the connection that they maintain with these sites and the preventive or curative measures taken to ensure their preservation.
This new exhibition is in line with the museum's commitment toward Indigenous Peoples. It asserts the institution's pledge to be a preferred partner of First Nations and Inuit in the affirmation and protection of their identity, to contribute to raising awareness about the reality, heritage and traditions of Indigenous Peoples by promoting the dissemination of their culture and to encourage the involvement of Indigenous groups in the Musée de la civilisation's activities and projects of concern to them.
Word from the Executive Director
"There are a large number of Indigenous rock art sites in Canada. Some of them are thousands of years old, while others were created before the first contact with Europeans. This unique, astonishingly rich heritage has long remained unknown by a great many people unaware of its value, let alone its existence. The purpose of the Images on Stone. Rock Art in Canada online exhibition is to allow the public at large to experience rock art up close. Neophytes and amateurs alike will learn about the origins and Indigenous spiritual beliefs at the source of these rock art creations, their significance and how rock art inspires today's artists."
Stéphan La Roche, Executive Director
- The generic term rock art defines an age-old form of visual expression. Rock art includes paintings, drawings and carvings created on rock formations of every kind: caves, rock shelters, erratic blocks or exposed rock outcrops;
- Rock art has been a means of "artistic" expression for at least 5000 years;
- Rock art is found on every continent, except for Antarctica. Although this mode of expression is universal, sites on each continent have their own specificities in terms of location, representation, dating and purpose;
- In Canada, rock art is found from coast to coast. The exact number of sites has yet to be determined, but they are estimated at 3 000;
- British Columbia has an extremely rich rock art heritage. Some 1300 petroglyph and pictograph sites have been located on the Northwest Coast and inland. Some sites combine both forms of rock art;
- About 800 sites with pictographs have been identified across the parts of the Canadian Shield stretching from Quebec to Saskatchewan, with most found in Ontario. In Quebec, some 20 sites have been located;
- In the Atlantic Provinces, only 14 petroglyph sites have been confirmed in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, mainly on rock outcrops and erratic rocks or blocks, often found near bodies of water.
This online exhibition was designed and produced by the Musée de la civilisation in partnership with the Virtual Museum of Canada, the Akufen creative studio, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the Air Inuit regional airline. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Arsenault, who laid the groundwork for this project. Through his teachings and extensive work, he contributed to increasing public awareness of this rich, mostly unknown heritage.
Virtual Museum of Canada: www.museevirtuel.ca