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National collection enriched by close to 1,000 works of Inuit art

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The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., has been enriched by a donation of more than 900 works of Inuit sculpture, prints, drawings and other material.

The collection arrives from the estate of the late Margaret (Marmie) Perkins Hess, a prominent Calgary gallery owner, art historian, professor and business person. She had assembled the collection over decades of travel and research in Canada’s North.

“Marmie, as she was known to friends, was really a force of nature,” said Dean Oliver, senior director of research and chief curator at the museum.

“She was deeply immersed in western Alberta [and] Calgary culture, but also northern and western Indigenous culture for her entire adult life. [She] amassed an absolutely gob-smacking array of items … and kept absolutely meticulous collector records of all of these things,” said Oliver. She recorded the dates, times, places, cost, location of the purchase, and more. 

The late Margaret Perkins Hess was a lifelong collector of Inuit art. (University of Lethbridge/Alberta Order of Excellence)

The collection is dominated by more than 750 sculptures, but it also includes, according to a press release, “120 artworks on paper and 25 examples of historical material collected from approximately 30 northern communities.”

Those communities include Cape Dorset, Baker Lake, Inukjuak, Que., Naujaat, Taloyoak and Kugluktuk. The collection represents Inuit artists from the 1950s through to the 1980s. 

Hess’s donation brings the Inuit art collection at the national museum to about 13,000 items, Oliver said.

In addition to the inherent beauty of the items in Hess’s collection, Oliver said there is another unique element to the collection.

“Most of the artists in the collection are female,” Oliver said. “Many of [Hess’s] relationships were with women artists and crafts persons. So it allows us to speak to the length and breadth of craft development and skill across northern Canada, but also … [to] the role of women in these industries and agencies and what they were doing in families and communities.”

Owls and Owlets by Agnes Nulluq Iqqugaqtuq of Pelly Bay, is one of the works of art included in a donation to the Canadian Museum of History from the estate of the late Margaret Hess. (©Musée canadien de l’histoire / © Canadian Museum of History)

Full digitization could take at least 2 years

Among the next steps for the collection is for the extensive paper records to be reviewed, confirmed and digitized, a process Oliver said could take at least two years.

“Marrying up the paper record to the actual item and then making sure that’s searchable and integrated with our own databases … will take a while.”

In the meantime, plans for travelling exhibits are in the works, but Oliver said it’s too soon to say when elements of the new collection might make their way North.

In some cases, the collection extends the museum’s holdings for some of the smaller communities. For example, 140 items in the collection come from Taloyoak, which will be added to the 57 items from the community the museum already holds.

Oliver said the new collection will provide insight into artwork in smaller communities.

“Some things people know a lot about — like the [Cape] Dorset prints — but other communities we knew very little about what their production was.”

Transformation by Peggy Ekagina of Kugluktuk, is one of the works of art included in a donation to the Canadian Museum of History from the estate of the late Margaret Hess. (©Musée canadien de l’histoire / © Canadian Museum of History)

Life-long collector

Hess was born in Calgary in 1916, but studied in Toronto during the 1930s where she struck up a friendship with members of the Group of Seven. Inspired by sprawling images of Canada’s natural beauty, Hess came to northern Canada where she became familiar with Inuit artists, often buying work directly from them.

In 1970 she opened Calgary Galleries Ltd. where she sold Indigenous art. She died on Sept. 2, 2016.

Since then elements of her estate have been distributed according to her will. In 2018 the University of Lethbridge received a collection of art valued at more than $4 million from Hess’s estate. It was the largest donation the university had ever received at the time.

“She was 100 years old when passed away,” Oliver said. “Our sense is that she was actively collecting for around 75 years of that hundred and with the passion that was as undiminished on her last day as the first one.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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