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Award-winning ‘Uncover/Recover’ project from OCAD University and the ROM goes live online

INVC students at Ojibwe Cultural Centre
Uncover/Recover students at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, Manitoulin Island
Left to right: Elisha Lim, project manager; Meagan Van Capelle; Bernie Leroux, digital research assistant; Kaia’tanoron Dumoulin Bush; Megan Feheley; Michael Crawford;
Amanda Amour-Lynx; Mariah Meawasige; Ana Morningstar.


Uncover/Recover, an award-winning multimedia project from OCAD University, the Province of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), is now live online.

Celebrating Indigenous peoples’ creative legacy, past, present and future, the virtual exhibition represents a unique collaboration between the province, students in OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture (INVC) Program and the ROM. Funding for the project was provided through Ontario’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs (formerly the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation).

During the 2017/2018 academic year, nine undergraduate students in the INVC Special Topics course, “Uncover. Recover” collaborated with ROM curators and knowledge keepers, with support from faculty and four research assistants from OCAD University’s Digital Futures and Graduate Studies programs, to work on this project.  

Each student in the Uncover/Recover course chose an object from the ROM’s Indigenous collections and archive, with the goal to research the history of the object, consider its probable role in contemporary culture had it not been placed in a museum, and speculate on its use in a future Indigenous society.

With the guidance and support of OCAD University’s Indigenous faculty and visiting knowledge keepers, the students designed culturally sensitive multimedia responses to the objects they’d chosen, which have been compiled on the website, created by Indigenous media-arts collective Maaiingan Productions and hosted on the ROM’s website. Incorporating gaming, critical commentary, mapping, sound, visual art, graphic and digital design, the project also promotes a lively exchange of local, regional, contemporary and traditional stories through social media.

“Our goal in this endeavour was to expand conventional notions of 'conservation' by asserting our desire to re-awaken objects that have been held in the museum's vaults for generations to uncover and recover their original purposes and re-engage them in the work of Indigenous social reconstruction and restoration,” says project lead Bonnie Devine, Associate Professor Emerita and Founding Chair, Indigenous Visual Culture Program at OCAD University.

A documentary video about the project, produced by Maaiingan Productions, is also available, below and online.

“Art and culture help define our identity and deepen our understanding of the world around us,” says Jennifer Czajkowski, ROM Deputy Director for Engagement. “With this innovative digital project, students have been inspired by the Museum’s in-depth Indigenous collections to create original works that explore deep questions about identity, objects, and the role of Museums. We are delighted to be part of this invaluable collaboration with the students in OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture Program and grateful for the support of the Ministry which has made it possible.”

The Uncover/Recover project and the participating students were awarded a Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2019.

OCAD University believes that Indigenous knowledges and cultures are of fundamental importance to the future of Canada, both to Indigenous individuals and communities, and to Canadian society, at large. In 2008, OCAD U created the Indigenous Visual Culture Program, one of the first of its kind to be established at an art and design university and convened an Indigenous Education Council. The Council’s mandate, which includes national representation, is to recommend initiatives and share strategies that provide direction and guidance in the development of the program and supporting initiatives.

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