Weaving Workshop

Pitt Rivers Museum


December 2, 2013

I sat amongst volunteers in the brightly lit annexe of the Pitt Rivers Museum, soaking strips of bark in a quest to make twine. A few weeks earlier I had received an invition to attend a ‘Haida weaving workshop’. Maya Herbolzheimer, the museum’s outreach officer, designed the workshop to engage volunteers with collections belonging to Canada’s Haida Nation; an indigenous community residing on the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) on the northwest coast of British Columbia. Maya believes “museum-community engagement…encourages a sense of shared ownership of the collections.”

Maya’s guest speakers and weaving specialists, Sherry Doyal and Suni Lopez, were teaching volunteers a number of basic weaving skills and sharing their artistic inspirations.  Suni expressed her passion for weaving as an art form. Eager ears absorbed Sherry’s accounts of her voyage to Haida Gwaii and Salt Spring Island, as a representative for the Pitt Rivers Museum and The British Museum.

Surrounded by a display of woven hats, baskets, and bangles, Sherry described the meticulous planning required to harvest materials. The cultural significance within each motif adopted by a courageous nation, who continue to maintain a tradition over 5,0000 years old. As Sherry shared knowledge from the Haida community, my mind spun to our north-west coast sisters weaving in chorus across the Atlantic Ocean. “The Pitt Rivers Museum and its collections play a significant role in engaging and making connections between visitor and maker communities”, intent on emphasizing intrinsic culture within art.

The workshop transformed the Pitt Rivers Museum annexe into a lively platform for cross-cultural engagement. I hope that events like this will encourage institutions across the UK to invite maker communities to share their invaluable knowledge on museum collections. Furthermore, I look forward to an increase in similar workshops opening to the general public.