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A Walk-Through of Individual Experiences of You Are Here: Mapping the Future of Culture in Kamloops

Exhibition exercise with a map with text: What's your landmark?
Two females looking at historic photos
Exhibition exercise with a female placing a red dot on a map
Two females at a desk with art supplies
Finished artwork of a cultural mapping exercise
Two females drawing at a desk with art supplies
Three females at a desk drawing

The newest exhibit at Kamloops Museum and Archives is more than history, it’s about building a future.

You Are Here is a free space to share your vision for the cultural direction of the City of Kamloops. The interactive exhibition at the Kamloops Museum and Archives invites you to share your ideas in a guided research project led by the Researcher-in-Residence partnership—a joint initiative between Thompson Rivers University and the City. Centred on cultural mapping and featuring a range of ways to take part, the exhibit calls on you to participate and help build our community’s next landscape of culture. The data and vast mediums of participation that are collected will be analyzed by the researchers to help inform the City’s updated Cultural Strategic Plan.

There are several ways to participate—you choose your level of participation. One may describe the stages of participation in this exhibition as bronze, silver, and gold. The bronze level is data mapping. There are a series of large maps placed in the exhibit asking you questions, such as “What’s your landmark?” and “Where do you go, outside?”, encouraging you to take a red dot sticker and place it on the map. When we all work together, this exercise builds a strong visual of the places we go and frequent together and really makes you visualize where you spend your time experiencing Kamloops.

The silver level is a thought-provoking exercise that encourages you to grab a red tag from the wall and a felt marker to answer questions such as “What’s stopping you?”, “What even is culture?”, and “How do you participate?” You then place your tag on the wall alongside other contributions. It’s an interesting experience to review what others have contributed and start to understand what barriers others face and what culture means to each individual. The best part is the responses come from all ages, and trust us, you want to see what the kids have contributed. Their honest answers can be the most thought provoking of them all.

Finally, the gold level participation may be the most intense, but it is worth the journey. Art supplies and a blank canvas greet you at your seat with the goal of you artistically expressing how you experience culture in Kamloops. There is no pressure. You take your time to create your own masterpiece. The best part is at the end when a researcher will ask you to take them through what you created. Regardless of how YOU feel about your art, they will tell you it is fridge worthy.

At the end, your artwork is scanned and put on digital display with all the other contributions and becomes a piece of art and a meaningful contribution as to what culture means to you and to our community.

We took a journey through the exhibition with a group and have summarized the process and their individual experiences to share with you in the hope that your next adventure out includes You Are Here and the willingness to contribute to the future of your City.

Participant 1: The exhibit was the first museum exhibition that I have ever attended with intention. Although unclear as to what the exhibition was about prior to attending, I felt that it was easy to participate in the ways I wanted to. I took part in all the opportunities and the blank canvas was intimidating. Once I relaxed and got over the fear that I draw like a four year old, my blank piece of paper came to life with all sorts of colors and shapes depicting what Kamloops means to me when I think about it. Evidently, culture means different things to each and every one of us and we can visualize it however we want. In the end, we all participate in culture, and ironically, what we were doing in that moment, was part of it.

You get a real sense of what culture means to you in the end, even if you first walk into the building overwhelmed and think “What even IS culture?”.

Participant 2: The exhibit was interactive and thought-provoking. It encourages you to reflect on your own relationship with Kamloops and the senses and feelings experienced in our shared space. I liked the different elements of the exhibit—the large-scale maps, the historical photos, the participatory activities like leaving notes, placing dots on maps, and getting creative with drawing/painting my own experience. It’s really neat to be able to participate and to help generate cultural research data that will support the creation of a Cultural Strategic Plan.

Many people think culture has to fit a certain definition, but I think culture is both ubiquitous and enigmatic. It surrounds us yet it’s also intangible. I loved how the You Are Here exhibit encourages reflection on what we believe culture to be and what that looks and feels like for each of us in our community.  

Participant 3: This exhibition made me feel like I was part of a community. When I looked at the photographs on the walls, I was reminded of the history of Kamloops, and all the things that have made it a fun and wonderful place to grow up. I liked putting the red dots on the maps, specifically, I really liked seeing the clusters of places people of Kamloops universally enjoy—we’re not all that different in what we enjoy, do, and participate in.

The thing I love about Kamloops is it’s natural beauty, the hidden gems, and fun little places to go. I painted a photo of the sun setting in the west with Mount Paul, the river, and some houses. When I think of community, I think of places we all share and love.  Like the hiking trails, bike trails, music in the park, restaurants, and those quirky little hidden gem spots that the community has created – like the “fairy garden” hidden deep along a trail in Barnhartvale, created by various people in the community! I enjoy when we all do things that make the community a little less bland and boring.

Participant 4: I enjoyed the You Are Here exhibit. The dot exercise with the large maps  made me reflect on our city as a resident and as a visitor and think about how I physically experience Kamloops. Through this, I got to see other peoples’ dots, which made me realize all the areas of the city I don’t visit regularly and should explore.

The next exercise was to answer some basic questions about culture in Kamloops. I really enjoyed reading other responses to see how others view Kamloops and reflect on how they may perceive things differently than me. Both exercises were simple and not at all intimidating as I was able to move at my own pace and participate as much or as little as I wanted.

The final component was the cultural mapping exercise. I’m not going to lie, this felt intimidating to sit in front of a blank piece of paper and be asked to draw something, anything, that represented culture to me. My instinct was to draw something that really connected me to Kamloops, which was water. I didn’t want to represent a specific body of water or access point, as there are many places people can access water in Kamloops, so my painting was fairly non-descript. I included the sun and the hills in the background, and at the forefront, I painted 5 people sitting together facing the water, and enjoying food, drinks, and each other’s company. I tried to keep the people very non-descript as well, to represent anyone.

To me, culture comes from the land and is shared through people. Our physical landscape has shaped who we are as people for thousands of years and has influenced our built environment and ways we celebrate culture. In Kamloops, we were built around water, and we celebrate the natural beauty around us. Our culture is water, people, and nature.

Participant 5: Being newer to Kamloops, and someone who has never settled long in any one place throughout life, the experience triggered all sorts of thoughts and feelings about connection to culture without connection to history. It was interesting to read so many perspectives on Kamloops culture tied to a history that doesn’t match my limited lived experience, and to wonder about how those roots shaped the people around me. I liked seeing the maps come to life with all the points placed by participants and to consider how this data could help the City plan and grow in a way that fosters rich cultural connection. To me, no matter where I live, culture has always been about the characteristics of the relational spaces that are available to me, and about the ways that I am shaped by them as I find belonging.

All the of the maps that have been created to date will come together for a pop-up exhibit on August 25, 2022, to generate a conversation and share what the researchers have heard from the community about the ideas and general commonalities that are being witnessed.  

How can you participate?

You are invited to visit the Kamloops Museum and Archives Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 am–4:30 pm. Group participation is available Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 am–11:30 am and 1:30 pm–3:30 pm with a reservation made online. The recommend groups size is 5–10 people.

The exhibit is available for participation until September 24, 2022. Admission is free.

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