Misko-Aki Confluence of Cultures
The Muskoka Discovery Centre (formerly the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre) operates the iconic steamboats Segwun and Wenonah II as well as a museum dedicated to the history and heritage of boating in Ontario’s Muskoka region – one of Canada’s largest and best-known natural cottage and recreation areas, located about 2 hours north of Toronto. In 2014, the Centre commissioned Lord Cultural Resources in association with Moriyama and Teshima Architects to develop a Master Plan intended to guide the Centre through an exhibition renewal and building rehabilitation process, keeping long-term sustainability firmly in view.
A primary goal of the new exhibit spaces is to help the MSDC to become a more vibrant and relevant cultural hub for the community, tell the story of Muskoka’s diverse cultural and natural heritage with a renewed appreciation toward Indigenous cultures and traditions, and preserve its unique marine history. The three new exhibits, which will tell the story of Muskoka from a national context, include The Transformative Steam Era, Muskoka Past Present and Future, and Misko-Aki: Confluence of Cultures. These exhibits will entertain, inform and engage residents and tourists of all age groups, add vitality to the region and enhance the presence of the Muskoka Discovery Centre as an exciting must-visit attraction.
In 2020 the MSDC invited Tim Johnson to put together a team to develop the Misko-Aki: Confluence of Cultures exhibition, a 3,000 square foot permanent exhibition in a new gallery of the MSDC. Tim assembled a team of Indigenous curators and advisors, including Rick Hill, as well as partners Lord Cultural Resources and WeatherstonBruer Associates to provide interpretive planning, content coordination, and exhibition design services. The concept for the exhibition developed by Rick Hill is that visitors will voyage on a canoe journey through history, up to the present, and look towards the future. They will learn how the Indigenous peoples of the region travelled, hunted, lived and cared for this unique landscape in the past and today. The exhibition presents an ethos centred on the Dish With One Spoon concept, of bounty shared and used by Indigenous peoples responsibly. It also shares examples of how Indigenous peoples have sustainably used the natural resources of the region, to inspire others to be responsible environmental stewards.
This project involved extensive consultation and collaboration with the 7 Indigenous Nations connected to the Muskoka region to develop the approach and content for the exhibition. This involved multiple virtual meetings and listening sessions to gather stories, knowledge, and ideas for images and objects to present in the exhibition. Lord Cultural Resources developed the Interpretive Plan for the exhibition and coordinated the creation of exhibition content, which came from the Indigenous communities. WeatherstonBruer developed the exhibition design.
Through a collaborative, culturally sensitive, and creative process the team has completed the exhibition content and design. In the fabrication phase of work we were joined by Kubik Maltbie, a world-renowned exhibition fabrication partner. This new exhibition opened to the public in July 2023 and is already attracting generous funding support, interest, and accolades.