William (Bill) McLennan was born in Vancouver on October 4, 1948. He received a degree in Arts and Merchandising from Vancouver City College and upon graduation, worked for the City of Vancouver, the MacMillan Planetarium, and Vancouver Centennial Museum, all in the area of exhibit and graphic design. In 1975, McLennan began to work at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) on a contract to photograph the presentation of the visible storage system. In 1976, he became a permanent staff member at the Museum.
His initial responsibilities included exhibit design, graphic design, photography, teaching, and research. In these capacities McLennan held the responsibility of photographing collections at various stages, as well as photographing events and the physical building and exhibition spaces. Being a designer entailed working with curators and artists on exhibits, designing labels, brochures and memorabilia sold in the gift shop. His teaching responsibilities included working with students who interned under his supervision during the school year, giving classes on photography and design to students taking museum studies courses and giving lectures of Northwest Coast painting and photography. In 1993 he began to curate exhibits, McLennan’s first exhibit as curator was The Transforming Image after his discovery through extensive research that infrared film could reveal Northwest coast paintings that had disappeared under the patina of age. In 2001 he officially became a curator/project manager in addition to continuing work in the graphic design department. In addition to these duties, McLennan performed contract work for various museums.
In 1979, McLennan won the Certificate of Design Excellence for exhibit design for Print Magazine Casebooks. In 1983, he received a Canada Council Grant, followed by a BC Heritage grant in 1984 and 85, to research the possibilities of using infrared film to reveal Northwest Coast paintings that had faded with time. This research was interrupted in 1986 when McLennan took a one-year leave of absence from the Museum to work for Expo ’86 as a member of the exhibits team. In 1987, he received a planning and development grant from the Museums Assistance Program in order to develop his previous research on infrared painted images into an exhibit and book. This exhibit came to fruition in 1993 and was called ‘The Transforming Image’ from which a book was published by the same name which won the Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Canadian Museums Association in 2001. He also received a Certificate of Merit from the British Columbia Historical Federation for this book.
McLennan was also the recipient of the President’s Service Award for Excellence from the University of British Columbia in 1995 and the British Columbia Museums Associations Award of Merit for “The Respect to Bill Reid Pole” in 2002.
In 2010, McLennan curated an exhibit displaying the works of Charles and Isabella Edenshaw titled ‘Signed Without Signature: Works by Charles and Isabella Edenshaw’. This exhibit used 3D imaging technology to show the patterns on 3D objects in a flat undistorted perspective.
McLennan retired from MOA on October 31, 2013.