C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
In Memoriam: Michael Ames
February 12, 2007
Michael McClean Ames, Ph.D., CM, FRSC. Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia.
After a courageous battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Dr. Michael Ames passed away peacefully at the age of 72 on February 20, 2006 with his family at his side.
Michael received his B.A. (Hons) in anthropology from UBC, Ph.D. from Harvard, and did field work in Sri Lanka and post-doctoral work in South Asian Studies at the University of Chicago before returning to Canada to teach at McMaster University from 1962 and at UBC from 1964 onwards. He served as Director of the UBC Museum of Anthropology from 1974 to 1997 and after retirement as Acting Director from 2002 to 2004.
In that time, Michael was many things to many people: inspired teacher, beloved mentor, renowned scholar, demanding administrator, relentless innovator, and constant seeker of knowledge. His influence is felt worldwide through his books, articles, service to communities both academic and cultural, and most of all, through his students, many of whom chose careers as anthropologists and museum professionals because of him.
[Michael Ames was co-rapporteur with Mina McKenzie from New Zealand of "Curatorship: Indigenous Perspectives in Post-Colonial Societies," a symposium organized by the University of Victoria and the Commonwealth Association of Museums in 1994. They did masterful work during the symposium and Michael became a member of CAM and remained so until his untimely death.]
Under his leadership the UBC Museum of Anthropology became Canada's largest teaching museum, internationally recognized for its experimental approaches to educating people about the diversity of cultures. One of Michael's major research interests was museology. He published widely on the democratization of museums and their role in promoting collaboration with and cultural empowerment of indigenous peoples. He initiated one of the first consultations with the Aboriginal community regarding the appropriate handling of First Nations artifacts, their representation and access. His book "Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes: The Anthropology of Museums" influenced beliefs about the modern role of museums, and he was widely sought as a consultant to museums in Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. He conducted research on South Asia over many years, including studies of village Buddhism in Sri Lanka, industrial and community development in India, the South Asian diaspora, and Sikhs in B.C. He served as President of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, and gave extensive professional service to many academic organizations.
Michael received many academic and service honours, and in 1998 he was appointed Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of his reputation as an internationally known scholar, researcher, and author in anthropology and museology.
Donations may be made to the following address:
Michael Ames Scholarship in Museum Studies
c/o UBC Museum of Anthropology
6393 N.W. Marine Drive
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
Courtesy UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver. Full tribute will be posted on the website.