Fonds 1 - William McLennan (MOA Curator) fonds

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Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

William McLennan (MOA Curator) fonds

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Physical description

3.25 m of textual records and other materials

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1948 - 2020)

Biographical history

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.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records created by McLennan during his employment at the Museum. Fonds has been arranged into six series. The first series is titled Exhibits and relates to McLennan’s role first as a designer and photographer of exhibits and later as a curator of exhibits. Each exhibit is arranged into a separate subseries. Some of the photographs were taken by staff who worked for McLennan.

The second series is titled Projects and events. This series relates to McLennan’s role as photographer. He has recorded many events and documented projects through the use of photography. On some projects he also took on the role of designer.

The third series is titled Multiversity galleries and contains materials related to the creation of the Multiversity gallery space which occurred as part of the Partnership of Peoples Renewal project from 2007-2010.

The fourth series is titled general research and contains materials related to McLennan’s research in art on the northwest coast of British Columbia. The research series has been sub-divided into four sub-series: museums, archives and subject files, artist files, culture photographs and books.

The fifth series is titled Bill Reid and contains materials created and collected about Bill Reid and his work by McLennan.

The sixth series is titled Administration, public relations and correspondence and relates to McLennan’s administrative role at MOA, containing administrative records.

Additional digital records from this fonds are still being processed and will be added to this finding aid at a later date.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


In 2000 some material in this fonds was incorrectly accessioned. Erin Coulter, an archival assistant, attempted to remove material that does not belong in this fonds and re-accession material that was originally part of McLennan’s fonds.

In 2013, when McLennan retired, an archivist consultant was hired in order to assist him with the transfer of his records to the MOA Archives. The original order was largely maintained, however some order was imposed by the archivist where no original order was discernable.

Note that there are different numbering systems for subseries, the two separate accessions are the reason for this. Numbers were used for subseries in series 1 while alphabetical system in all other subseries.

McLennan has arranged his files mostly by project, event, or exhibit. Within each project, event, or exhibit files are kept on each institution visited for research. These files contain mostly photographic records of artifacts and archival materials found in each institution. Bill has photocopied many texts or sections of text while doing research.

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Restrictions on access

Some records in the this fonds are subject to restrictions due to the freedom of information and protection of privacy act. These restrictions are noted in the file level descriptions.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

McLennan must be referenced as the creator and the Museum Archives must be referenced as the location.

Finding aids

Associated materials

In 1983, McLennan 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. Records created by McLennan during this project are located in the his private records fonds, titled “William McLennan fonds (private records)”.

Related materials


Further accruals are expected

Physical description

fonds includes 3.25 m of textual records. - ca. 24,000 photographs. – ca. 100 GB of digital records - 20 audio cassettes. – 11 drawings. – 10 booklets. – 10 CD-ROMs. – 2 postcards

Physical location note

The physical location of all files is written in parentheses next to the file number. For example, the reference code for file 1 in series 3 is "1 (15.1)." The 1 refers to the file number, and the (15.1) means that it is stored in box 15, folder 1.

Digital Storage Note

Server location: W:\2014-7_WilliamMcLennanFonds

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Created by Elizabeth McManus, March 2015.
Updated by Katie Ferrante December 2015.

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