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In 1976, the new building, designed by renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, opened under new director Michael M. Walter and Marianne Koerner's 1975 donation of their extensive collection of Northwest Coast First Nations art to the museum formed a large part of the building's contents. Arthur Erickson's building, designed in 1976, was inspired by the post-and-beam architecture of northern Northwest Coast First Nations people.
Like much of Erickson's work, the building is made primarily out of concrete.
In addition, there is a large collection of Japanese prints, Buddhist art, Hindu art (including Gandhara sculpture), textiles and clothing, and Indian calendar prints.
Other collections include 2300 Chinese coins and amulets, 200 Sichuan blue thread embroideries dating to circa 1900, rare Tibetan robes, and masks from Noe (Japan), Sunni and Kolam (Sri Lanka), and Pongsan and Yangju (Korea).
The building takes advantage of second world war gun emplacements, with the famous Bill Reid Raven sculpture located on a repurposed gun battery.
In September 2010, a reflecting pool was added to the front, funded by Yosef Wosk, OBC.
These are mostly in the Multiversity Galleries, where objects that would normally be stored behind the scenes are made accessible to the public.
The collections include contemporary works as well as historical objects.
Although MOA's focus is on the First Nations of the Northwest Coast, the collection of 38,000 ethnological objects includes objects from all continents.
The Haida houses outside the museum were built under the direction of Bill Reid, who carved, with Doug Cranmer, many of the totem poles surrounding them.
The original Reid/Cranmer totem pole mounted on the front of the big house was taken inside in 2000 due to deterioration and replaced with the new "Respect to Bill Reid Pole" by Haida artist Jim Hart.
As Canada celebrates 150 years of Confederation, academics and community leaders in Atlantic Canada are campaigning to keep more than a million tokens of their heritage—from a silver cross dating to pre-expulsion Grand Pré to a trove of Mi’kmaq artifacts—from being relocated.
“For us, this raises red flags and reminds of us of another forced removal,’ said Véronique Mallet, executive director of Société Nationale de l’Acadie and a vocal critic of a federal plan to move archeological relics from their home in Dartmouth, N. “We were removed from our lands, and now we’re moving Acadian history and artifacts and taking them away from the hands of the Acadian people.” Mallet’s concern stems from the 2012 announcement that Parks Canada would close six archaeology storage labs in five different cities—Winnipeg; Ottawa; Cornwall, Ont.; Quebec City and Dartmouth—and move their contents to Gatineau, Que.
The collection dates from the 1890s and is an important resource for researchers, writers, artists, and communities.