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Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada

About CURA > Overview

Our mandate

The goal of CURA was to develop collaborative alliances between the University of Victoria, its CURA partners, and the arts and heritage community throughout British Columbia. The five CURA partners, the University of Victoria, the Royal BC Museum, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the BC Museums Association, and the Heritage Society of BC offered their research, teaching and curatorial resources to assist with community-based projects. The program was designed to help community organizations research and document local visual arts collections and heritage property. A primary objective was to develop an integrated body of knowledge of provincial collections that would be available to a wide audience.

The CURA program completed its five year mandate in July 2005. This site remains as CURA's archive, as a lasting referral to the community partners, and as a first stop link to resources for the cultural community.

CURA Goals

  • to extend the research expertise of the University of Victoria and its CURA partners to regional heritage organizations;
  • to encourage innovative research projects;
  • to develop integrated and accessible knowledge of public and private collections;
  • to create a communication network for continuing curatorial research;
  • to contribute to the social and economic development of communities;
  • to enrich research, teaching, and curricula at the university; and
  • to enhance employment opportunities for student participants.

CURA at the University of Victoria

The CURA Program operated out of the History in Art Department at the University of Victoria. CURA projects were multi-disciplinary and were supported by faculty from History in Art and other university departments including Anthropology, History, Geography, English, Environmental Studies and Education. University students participated as research assistants for course credit or through student employment programs. CURA also offered Training and Study Visit Fellowships for on-campus courses in the Cultural Resource Management Program.

CURA Partners

The University's community partners brought added expertise to CURA. The Royal British Columbia Museum offered support to cultural projects in conjunction with its Living Landscapes Program in central and northern B.C. The Museum contributed curatorial assistance for collections research, project coordination and community programming. The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, with its major collections in Canadian, European and Asian art and its curatorial experience, offered its resources to curators in community art galleries. The Heritage Society of B.C. and the B.C. Museums Association supported the communications network of the CURA program and assisted with program development and project coordination. The Heritage Society provided advisory services and training opportunities in the conservation of heritage resources. The Museums Association offered assistance for technical services and coordinated a web-building training program.

Project Support

CURA supported 17 community-driven research projects selected by jury process from proposals received from museums, galleries and heritage organizations. The projects were based on a diverse range of cultural property significant to communities throughout British Columbia.

The CURA projects presented new ways of thinking about local collections and collaborative approaches to research. The goal of CURA was to build equal and mutually-beneficial research alliances between CURA participants and community partners. Each project was managed by a representative from the community group and a faculty member from the University of Victoria. Academics applied their research skills to help meet the concrete needs of community organizations. The multidisciplinary collaboration of faculty and students from several university departments, museum professionals and community participants offered a cross-fertilization of ideas and methods. Student researchers had the rare opportunity, especially at the undergraduate level, to work with real collections and primary materials as members of a project team. Community partners and other community participants contributed their expertise and local knowledge around the collections and their context.

Project outcomes included exhibitions, publications, curricula materials, CD-ROMs and web sites, all of which disseminated the research results to as wide an audience as possible. By helping regional heritage institutions document their collections, CURA provided a more informed and detailed knowledge of the individuals, diverse ethnic groups and communities that have contributed to the cultural history of British Columbia.

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