Collections and Research
Curator, Ethnology and Archaeology
Interim Curator, Decorative Arts
The highlight of my work is showing our collections to various members of Indigenous communities who generously share their vast knowledge on these objects and on their culture. I am repeatedly touched and amazed by the unbroken bond they have with these objects and humbled by the privilege I have to care for them.
Guislaine Lemay joined the McCord Museum team in 1992 and has held her current position since 2008. Her research on the objects in the First Peoples collection explores the deeper meaning of these artefacts not simply as historic documents, but as expressions of the ongoing revitalization, evolution and development of Indigenous communities.
She has worked on several exhibitions, notably Wearing Our Identity – The First Peoples Collection, which received an honourable mention and was a finalist for the Canadian Museums Association’s History Alive! Award; Honouring Memory – Canada’s Residential Schools, with Hélène Samson and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; and Haida: Life. Spirit. Art. with the Canadian Museum of History and the Haida Gwaii Museum.
Since 2010, she has been exploring a more playful world by developing her expertise on the toys found in the Museum’s collection and collaborating on the annual toys exhibition aimed at children and their parents; past versions have included The Topsy-Turvy Storyland, Mister Rabbit’s Circus and The Island of Toys.
With a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s of science in ethnohistory from Université de Montréal, Guislaine Lemay is especially interested in the museum as a place of reconciliation. She has launched and participated in several projects promoting discussion and the exchange of ideas between the McCord Museum, Indigenous artists and members of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, with the goal of developing a more global vision of their stories. These projects have led to new interpretations and better documentation of the objects in the collection.
“Porter son identité : La collection de vêtements des Premiers Peuples du Musée McCord.” In Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections/À la recherche du savoir : Nouveaux échanges sur les collections du Musée McCord, edited by Joanne Burgess, Cynthia Cooper, Céline Widmer and Natasha Zwarich, 53–68. Montreal: Éditions MultiMondes, 2015.
“La collection Premiers Peuples.” In Porter son identité – La collection Premiers Peuples, 9–13. Montreal: McCord Museum, 2013.
“Ethnology and Archeology.” In 90 Treasures, 90 Stories, 90 Years, edited by Cynthia Cooper and Nicole Vallières, 14-53. Montreal: McCord Museum, 2011.
“Decorative Arts.” In 90 Treasures, 90 Stories, 90 Years, edited by Cynthia Cooper and Nicole Vallières, 134-171. Montreal: McCord Museum, 2011.
“Museums to address ‘national forgetfulness’,” 2017 Conference of the Universities Art Association of Canada (UAAC), Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, October 12–15, 2017.
“Wearing Our Identity and the First Peoples Collection at the McCord Museum,” ACC/CCA Iakwe:Iahre Colloquium, Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, Concordia University, Montreal, October 17, 2014.
“L’objet identitaire – L’exposition Porter son identité – La collection Premiers Peuples,” Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections, Montréal, Dynamic HubSpace: History, Heritage, Future and the McCord Museum, Montreal, November 7–9, 2013.