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Dr. J.E. Michael Kew was born in Quesnel, British Columbia in 1932. Kew received his B.A. at the University of British Columbia in 1955 and was appointed the Assistant Curator of Anthropology at the Provincial Museum in Victoria from 1956-1959. Following a four-year period in Saskatchewan, where he was employed as a Community Development Officer at the Department of Natural Resources and a Research Assistant in Anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan, Kew returned to the University of British Columbia in 1965 as Instructor of Anthropology. During his appointment as Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Kew obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Washington, Seattle in 1970.
As part of his curatorial responsibilities at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), Dr. Kew curated a special exhibition of Central Coast Salish art objects in 1980 entitled Visions of Power, Symbols of Wealth: Central Coast Salish Sculpture and Engraving. In preparation for the exhibition, Dr. Kew was funded by a grant from SSHRC in 1979 to visit North American museums housing Central Coast Salish sculptural objects. The objective of his travels was to create a collection of images and documentation of the sculptures found in the various museums. The majority of the objects exhibited in Visions of Power, Symbols of Wealth came from the collections of the former National Museum of Canada and the Museum of the American Indian. The collections of the British Columbia Provincial Museum, Royal Ontario Museum, American Museum of Natural History, Field Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Art Museum, Thomas Burke Memorial Washing State Museum and the British Museum are also represented.
At the Museum of Anthropology, Michael Kew worked as Curator of Ethnology from 1977 to 1979. He curated a MOA exhibit on central Coast Salish three-dimensional art ca. 1993-1997. He also served as chair of the Ways and Means Committee beginning in 1993 when the committee was established.