When we began this project in 2017, the recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission were on everybody’s mind. As members of OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture program we were stirred by the possibility of social change and a better way forward for Indigenous peoples. We saw the Uncover/Recover project as an opportunity to positively contribute to a new era of cultural vitality for our communities and ourselves. For many of us, uncovering and interacting with the objects in the Royal Ontario Museum was a way to express our own creativity and give voice to traditions and life ways that were in danger of being forgotten. For some of us, our encounter with the objects was a way home.
The Uncover/Recover project is complex and technical and strained our art and design skills to the limit. We became so intensely focused on the goals of the undertaking that it took many months to realize the deeper implications of the process we had begun. But slowly a richer narrative has come into view. We’ve begun to see that the objects we’ve been studying still have work to do.
And though this work has been interrupted by their isolation in the museum the objects can and must continue to recover their place in our culture. Furthermore, our task to awaken the repository of cultural knowledge they contain is a critical part of our own creative work.
But we realized something else as well.
Our focus cannot rest solely on the objects in the ROM collection, for they are not alone in needing to recover. This project has laid bare many of our deepest personal hurts and traumatic memories. While crafting creative responses to the objects has offered relief from the collective pain of our ancestral history, some of us have suffered in the process and continue to suffer very deeply. We must attend to the need for healing urgently.
The Uncover/Recover project has taught us that the journey to recovery will be long and difficult for the objects, our communities, and our selves. It is a journey we have now begun.