Carleton Professor Wins Ottawa Book Award for Non-Fiction

Ruth Phillips wins award for Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums

Carleton University’s Ruth Phillips was awarded the $7,500 Ottawa Book Award in non-fiction for her book Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums. The book analyzes the important questions of indigenous representation in Canadian museums over the past four decades. As a manifesto that calls on readers to re-imagine the museum as a place to embrace global interconnectedness, Museum Pieces emphasizes the transformative power of museum controversy and analyzes, shifting ideas about art, authenticity, and power in the modern museum.

“I wrote Museum Pieces to draw attention to the epochal changes and reforms Canadian museums have achieved since the 1980s,” said Phillips. “Our new practices of collaboration have made us more capable of addressing cultural diversity and the different ways in which people understand history and identity. They have also made us world leaders; people in other countries have looked to Canadian museums for models as they grapple with their issues of diversity.”

Drawing on her four decades as curator, historian, educator, director and critic, Phillips pulls back the curtain from First Peoples’ exhibitions, inviting discussion and debate, skillfully weaving her own lifetime of curatorial and theoretical work through Canadian, First Peoples and museum history.  Her critical essays provide new ways of seeing the tension in the use and abuse of language, symbols, artifacts and voice in the museum environment. The collection has a deep personal significance for Phillips, revealing the progress and evolution of her career. This book grapples with the complexities of the past that are echoing in the present.

“With the changes coming to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, it is important to keep this history in mind so that we can build on its achievements and make museums places that affirm diversity and foster dialogue.” said Phillips. “I am really thrilled that Museum Pieces has been recognized by the Ottawa Book Award because living in this city and teaching at Carleton have provided me with opportunities to study museums that would be hard to match anywhere else.“

The Ottawa Book Award in non-fiction is awarded for outstanding published works of non-fiction, including biographies, memoirs, cultural histories, literary journalism and essays. The Ottawa Book Awards and Prix du livre d’Ottawa recognize the top English and French books published in the previous year. Both awards have separate categories for fiction and non-fiction. All shortlisted finalists receive $1,000 and each winner receives a prize of $7,500.

Ruth Phillips

Phillips holds a Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture and is Professor of Art History in the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture at Carleton University. A former director of the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, she has researched and written on critical museology and the arts of Africa and Indigenous North America.

For more information on the Ottawa Book Awards visit: http://www.ottawabookawards.ca/2012-winners/

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