Innovation in conversation with the past

The Bill Reid Centre at SFU originated at the intersection of Dr. George MacDonald’s embrace of immersive new media, Bill Reid’s dynamism, and their shared passion for innovation in conversation with the past.

Bill Reid and George MacDonald, 1988. Unknown Photographer.

The Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Studies (BRC) was founded in 2005 by Dr. George MacDonald. MacDonald was a friend and colleague of Bill Reid's and he admired how Reid refined his expertise through his relationships with knowledge keepers, artists, patrons, scholars, and curators. MacDonald also observed how Reid's art practice was informed by belongings created by his Haida Ancestors that had been removed from their communities of origin and held in institutions around the world.

MacDonald admired the bustling dynamic space of Bill Reid’s Granville Island studio, seemingly open to anyone with an interest in the creative expressions of Coastal First Peoples. He founded the BRC with the hope of replicating some of the energy, dialogue, and learning that defined that space. 

George MacDonald was himself a visionary who pushed the boundaries of the museum concept. As the founding President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now Canadian Museum of History) he was known for his early embrace of multimedia technologies, and envisioned virtual museums long before it was popular to do so. MacDonald’s interest in the cultures of Coastal First Peoples facilitated a life-long study of his own. Over his career, he collected records of visual and material belongings held in galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs) from around the world. Toward the end of his career, he sought to digitize and increase access to these records, thus culminating in the BRC’s George and Joanne MacDonald Northwest Coast Research Collection.

Bill Reid. (Artist: Chris Hopkins)

Our vision

is to support reconciliation by creating a vibrant collaborative space founded on respect and admiration of differences, where Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, artists, students, curators, and cultural practitioners come together to share their diverse ways of knowing, being, and doing.