This book examines Marius Barbeau’s career at Canada’s National Museum (now the Canadian Museum of History), in light of his education at Oxford and in Paris (1907–1911).
Based on archival research in England, France and Canada, Marius Barbeau’s Vitalist Ethnology presents Barbeau’s anthropological training at Oxford through his meticulous course notes, as well as archival photographs at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. It also draws upon Barbeau’s professional correspondence at Library and Archives Canada, the BC Archives, and, above all, the National Museum, where he worked for over four decades.
The author, Frances M. Slaney, sheds light on the professional life of this founder of Canadian anthropology, exploring his difficult working relationships with Edward Sapir, his collaborations with Franz Boas, and his outstanding fieldwork in rural Quebec and with Indigenous communities on British Columbia’s Northwest Coast.
Barbeau penned over 1,000 books and articles, in addition to curating innovative museum exhibitions and art shows. He invited Group of Seven artists into his field sites, convinced that their works could better capture the “vitality” of Quebec’s rural culture than his own abundant photographs.
For these—and many other—contributions, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized him as a “person of national historic importance” in 1985.
List of Illustrations
Section I: Animism to Vitalism: Learning Anthropology at Oxford and Paris
Chapter 1: Animism at Oxford, 1907–1910
Chapter 2: Social Anthropology in Paris
Chapter 3: Technology: Museum Studies in France and England
Section II: Vital Voices: Oral Narratives and Songs
Part A: Collecting Oral Narratives
Chapter 4: First Fieldwork for Canada’s National Museum
Chapter 5: A Broader Range of Voices: Narratives in Northern British Columbia
Chapter 6: Creating Literature from Oral Culture Collections
Part B: Ethnomusicology
Chapter 7: Encountering Songs and Singers
Chapter 8: Performing, Publishing, and Arranging Ethnomusicology Collections
Section III: Visions of Vitality: Material Culture and Visual Arts
Part A: Collecting Material Cultures
Chapter 9: Early Museum Work in Ottawa
Chapter 10: Divergent Perspectives: Curators’ Conflicts
Chapter 11: Totem Poles: Collection, Documentation, and Relocation
Part B: Work with Modern Settler Painters and Late Discoveries
Chapter 12: Fieldwork with Settler Society’s Visual Artists
Chapter 13: Art and Artifacts: Curating for Urban Galleries, 1926–1927
Section IV: Abroad Again and Late Works on Haida Gwaii
Chapter 14: Barbeau’s 1931 “Holiday” in France and England: Historicizing Indigenous Handcrafts
Chapter 15: Late Fieldwork on Haida Gwaii: Argillite Carving