About the Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology

About the Museum

The Simon Fraser University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology collects, researches, and exhibits artifacts from around the world with a focus on British Columbia. The MAE is affiliated with the Department of Archaeology.

A large and growing archive of images having to do with archaeology and ethnology is the basis of many of our virtual exhibits. If you have photographs you think the museum might be interested in, please contact Dr. Barbara Winter at bwinter@sfu.ca or (778) 782-3325.

The exhibits are created by students as part of the museum studies courses offered in the Department of Archaeology. Students study collections management, archaeological conservation, and web exhibit design. Some of their work may be viewed on this site.

Archaeological collections arising from excavations and other research by faculty, staff, and students are housed in the museum. The MAE works hard to make sure our content is relevant, interesting, and important to the topic of human history. 

We at the museum hope you enjoy the website! 

A totem pole is lifted and moved into the newly built SFU Museum in the 1960s. Photo from the SFU Archives.

History of the Museum

The Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology was created in 1965 by Dr. Roy Carlson, who was also the founder of the Department of Archaeology. The early mandate of the museum was to receive archaeological materials from department excavations and to collect and exhibit anthropological materials that would help students understand archaeological materials. The Department of Archaeology was performing large archaeological excavations up and down the BC coast in the 1960s and 1970s, and many of these collections have been exhibited in the gallery. Stone and bone tools, animal bones, shells, and the occasional piece of Northwest Coast art were found. These collections document over 3000 years of First Nations living in BC. 

In 1990 Dr. Barbara Winter became Director of the museum. At this time the growing opportunities of digitization and digital museum work manifested itself in the collection of donated photographs and slides, all of which are invaluable to the history of archaeological and anthropological work around the world. The photos document places now gone, such as Hong Kong before the new airport and Egypt before the building of the Aswan Dam, as well as important places and excavations in areas such as the Arctic, Asia, and Africa. The Internet aiding in museum work was also a new idea and the original SFU MAE website, built in 1992, was one of the first museum websites in the world. 

Student education programming is an important aspect of the museum's history, starting in the 1990s. Museum-related classes were implemented, such as collections management, archaeological conservation, anthropological art history, and more. The exhibits in the museum are designed and executed by students. 

In 2006 a large storm hit Vancouver. The museum flooded and the entire gallery had to be redesigned. After a generous donation from the McLean Family Foundation, eight new climate-controlled exhibits were installed. 

The future of the museum is bright, with new archival projects underway, continued rehousing and organization of the collections, and a growing connection with students and and the public and their presence and creativity in the museum.