The Sturgeon Harpoon Knowledge Web exhibit extension was developed out of a close collaboration between the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Musqueam First Nation, on whose traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory the University of British Columbia is located. The museum’s goal was to represent Indigenous knowledge from a first-person, contemporary point of view, centered on the building of a 35-foot two-pronged sturgeon harpoon. This knowledge is integrated within the framework of current biodiversity science and the existing open-storage concept of the museum. Six exhibition nodes are located throughout the museum, alongside organisms used as materials to construct the harpoon. To tie these together, an exhibit extension in the form of a responsive microsite (beatymuseum.ubc.ca/sturgeon) was constructed which presents the information in one resource, guides visitors to the physical exhibition nodes (https://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~biodiv/web/map.html), and delivers multimedia content as well as immersive 360 environments which merge the museum space with the habitats in which the organisms live.
This initiative was produced by a small in-house team over an ongoing, iterative development period. From the museum, Exhibits Manager, Yukiko Stranger-Galey was a key point of contact, overseeing content and managing the collaboration; Fabricator, Lesha Koop created supports enabling specimens to be safely displayed while allowing visitors to touch them, and Digital Producer, Derek Tan sourced and illustrated images, assembled the 360 environments, and produced the website on a framework by Eric Tsoi. From Musqueam, Jason Woolman as Archivist contributed much initial content, and Knowledge Keeper, Morgan Guerin, brought extensive experience from the process of making the harpoon, some of which is shared through first-person video (https://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~biodiv/web/eagle.html). This collaboration allowed for an incremental design process, building slowly on ideas and incorporating new information as the relationship developed, with the goal of maintaining an ongoing exchange of ideas and the persistence of this web resource as a learning tool for the museum’s varied audiences and the Musqueam Community.
The Beaty Biodiversity Museum’s mission is to inspire an understanding of biodiversity and its importance to humans while promoting a greater sense of responsibility. The Sturgeon Harpoon Knowledge Web is a story of past abundance, threats such as overharvesting, and the changes in our world and how we relate to our environment. The story is close to the museum’s core values of collaboration and innovation, and recognizes the significance of Indigenous knowledge and its continued teaching. The online component has been continuously evolving since mid-2019, and the first physical elements were installed in January 2020, but the exhibit has already been recognized for its innovation and excellence by the British Columbia Museums Association and by the Governor General of Canada. By sharing this story, and continuing to add to this living exhibit alongside Musqueam, the museum hopes to carry forward the wisdom embodied in the sturgeon harpoon well into the future.