Artistic Director Spotlight: Laurel McKellar, THEMUSEUM

THEMUSEUM features a wide array of cultural content, ranging from Jane Goodall to Andy Warhol. We caught up with Laurel McKellar, Director of Programs & Exhibitions, to get a closer look at the inner workings of THEMUSEUM.

Q: What can we expect to see at THEMUSEUM?

A: Currently, we have our exhibit on Egypt called Unwrapping Egypt that opened in mid-May. It’s a partnership with the Egyptian Art Centre in Cairo, Egypt and it features over 400 artifacts, with a focus on King Tut.

What’s neat about the exhibit is that it features a lot of replicas so that you get an up close look at all the items that are not allowed to leave Egypt anymore. So that’s really exciting for us. It will run until the end of February 2015. We’ve layered on a lot of programming for different audiences, such as children and families in summer, and with more adult content in the Fall with the launch of our Egyptian Dialogues speaker series.

Q: What has the response been like for this exhibit?

A: It’s been a great response and the summer months have been great for us. We’ve added another feature –  Justine the mummy. She’s a 3000 year old mummy and will be on display until the remainder of the exhibit.

Q: What is your role at THEMUSEUM?

A: I’ve been here for ten years at THEMUSEUM. It’s been great for me as I’ve had a number of roles: I started as an interpreter, I delivered programs on the floor to visitors, and I was involved in our education department organizing school groups that came in for our curriculum program. Since then, I’ve been heading up the programming department and the exhibits department as well.

Q: How do you curate what goes in the exhibits?

A:It’s really a team effort here. We’re a small team and we take our mission seriously. We scan the globe for fresh content and have a look at what we can bring in –  I arrange all of the logistics around that.  Exhibits come to us in all forms: it could be a pre-existing travelling exhibit, or something we create with a guest curator, another organization, or an artist.

We’re not a traditional museum – we’re an “un-museum”. We don’t have a traditional collection. We try to have a unique point of view when bringing in an exhibit. For example, if the exhibit has objects, we take the objects and use them to stage experiences. The experience creates the transformative connections for audiences. We like to have something unexpected or that presents different points of view.

Q: Has there been any exhibit that you found unique and special to you?

A: I have an Art History background and I love connecting and working with local artists. One of my favourites was the Yoko Ono exhibit. She’s a great contemporary artist, but most know her for her connection to The Beatles. Her work lends well to family audiences. One of the pieces showcased was really interactive and our members really got in to it and added more to the displays, making it a really participatory experience, but still maintaining the contemporary aspect to it.

Q: What is your future vision for THEMUSEUM?

A: We’ve been going through strategic planning with our Board of Directors and coming up with a few different plans moving forward. We’re not only a children’s museum or a place for exhibits, events or rentals, but also a community stage. There’s a lot of opportunity for us for collaboration moving forward and showcasing the talent that we have here in the community. We want to continue to be accessible and be financially stable, and still bring in fresh cultural content that will be engaging.