3 votes

Top Canadian museum to be imminently gutted in the name of 'decolonization'

11 comments

  1. [5]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    For the non-Canadians, it's worth noting that the National Post is considered a very Conservative friendly and right wing news org here, by our standards at least, hence how critical they are...

    For the non-Canadians, it's worth noting that the National Post is considered a very Conservative friendly and right wing news org here, by our standards at least, hence how critical they are being on this subject. And only other right-wing news orgs appear to be reporting on this so far (probably due to this being a bit of a manufactured controversy / Conservative outrage bait IMO), so I can't link to any less biased perspectives.


    Edit: Found an older CBC article on the subject which provides more context and a different perspective:

    Royal B.C. Museum to close exhibits that further colonial narrative

    The B.C. Royal Museum has announced it will be closing sections of the First People's gallery on its third floor as it seeks to decolonize the institution.

    The announcement is part of the museum's response to calls to action from Indigenous leaders to increase cultural safety and make the museum a welcome place to all.

    Earlier this year, its CEO stepped down after allegations of racism from Indigenous staff.

    "Decolonization of the museum's galleries is important and long overdue," said acting CEO Daniel Muzyka in a statement.

    Closing the exhibits will involve consultations with Indigenous Peoples and First Nations to appropriately repatriate and conserve certain items, he said.

    Replacing the exhibitions will take years, according to Muzyka. The museum's goal is to reflect the lived experiences of people who live in modern British Columbia, as well as those who have historically lived in the region.

    "That will involve a great deal of consultation, building new narratives around the lived experience as told by the people themselves, not through some historic lens or colonial lens," Muzyka said, although this work won't begin until the floor is fully closed in January.

    The museum says the work to create new narratives that will include underrepresented voices will be long term.

    The museum's third floor, known as the First People's gallery, includes the exhibits Our Living Languages: First People's Voices in B.C. and Becoming B.C.

    The Becoming B.C. gallery, which focuses on the story of European settlement in B.C. and has been widely criticized for pushing a colonial narrative, will be the first to close.

    Troy Sebastian, a former employee, says the decision is good news.

    When he left his job as curator of the Indigenous Collection in February, he wrote, "I am happy to leave that wicked place behind. Yet, as long as the museum continues to possess my family's sacred items that were taken from us during residential school, I can never truly leave."

    Sebastian is Ktunaxa and says Indigenous people have long spoken out about how they are depicted in the First People's gallery in particular. He describes it as "a time-lock capsule of racist attitudes from previous eras that kind of persist to today."

    "Having a museum that depicts Indigenous people as not having a voice, a face, or any authority at all, is something that just can't continue," said Sebastian.

    He's calling on Victoria residents, who he says have shown a willingness this year to support Indigenous people at events like Orange Shirt Day and vigils in the wake of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc discoveries, to demand that change at the museum happen and happen quickly.

    19 votes
    1. [2]
      psi
      Link Parent
      Here's the museum's announcement: https://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/royal-bc-museum-announces-upcoming-changes-core-galleries If you scroll down, the FAQ provides further context for their decision.

      Here's the museum's announcement:

      If you scroll down, the FAQ provides further context for their decision.

      8 votes
      1. ClearlyAlive
        Link Parent
        Honestly the main article is pretty misleading about it.

        The facades, staging and display cases of the exhibits need to be modernized. When the galleries on the third floor were built over 50 years ago, materials were used that do not meet today’s standards. They contain hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead. In normal operations these materials do no provide any risk to visitors or staff, but with the modernizing and changing of the spaces, these materials could be disturbed which requires us to take proper precautions and ensure everything is modernized and up to current standards.

        Honestly the main article is pretty misleading about it.

        9 votes
    2. [3]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        The Times Colonist, Globe & Mail, and Daily Hive may not be right wing, per se, but the opinion articles being published by them on this subject have all been written by the same writer, Lucas...

        The Times Colonist, Globe & Mail, and Daily Hive may not be right wing, per se, but the opinion articles being published by them on this subject have all been written by the same writer, Lucas Aykroyd, who seems to be the main pusher of this news story as being somehow controversial. So take that for what you will.

        13 votes
      2. Seven
        Link Parent
        Just from reading the title, the outlet's bias and its effect on readers' perception of the situation couldn't be more clear. By using terms like "gutted," the title already primes the reader for...

        Just from reading the title, the outlet's bias and its effect on readers' perception of the situation couldn't be more clear. By using terms like "gutted," the title already primes the reader for thinking of this change as negative through the negative tone of the word. Instead of using a more neutral word, this highly charged word primes the reader to agree with the National Post's politics. Additionally, by putting the word "decolonization" in quotes, the tone of the title immediately presents decolonization as something that shouldn't be taken seriously. It shows that the author doesn't think that decolonization is a legitimate cause to be pursued, and readers will pick up on that, consciously or not.

        10 votes
  2. [3]
    streblo
    Link
    There's probably other concerns (like space, for one) but you think they could have made a very powerful decolonization exhibit by keeping the 'quaint' pioneer life exhibits but grounding them...

    There's probably other concerns (like space, for one) but you think they could have made a very powerful decolonization exhibit by keeping the 'quaint' pioneer life exhibits but grounding them with some depictions of the reservation life, residential schools, the outlawing of cultural practices etc. I haven't been since I was a kid so maybe they have some of that now too?

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [2]
        streblo
        Link Parent
        The context of representation also matters. I'm sure they have First Nations displays but unless they're actively trying to unpack the systemic cultural destruction inflicted on indigenous people...

        The issue isn't likely one of Indigenous representation.

        The context of representation also matters.

        I'm sure they have First Nations displays but unless they're actively trying to unpack the systemic cultural destruction inflicted on indigenous people by settlers I think they need to be re-visited.

        The reality is that life on many reserves right now is abysmal. My wife and I lived in a very small reserve town for a few years while she taught at a school there and the dozens of stories of drug addiction/suicide/abuse that she experienced from her students' families was awful. There are serious cultural scars that our First Nations are carrying as a result of settler and Canadian actions; if our museums are depicting the quaint lives of pioneers and the the similarly quaint lives of indigenous peoples (they lived in dugouts and built totem poles!) I don't think we're really addressing the issue nor accurately depicting history.

        6 votes
        1. [2]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. streblo
            Link Parent
            Very fair points. I think I agree with you -- it would have been nice to find a way to keep some of the existing exhibits but offer some of that additional context and contrast with how indigenous...

            Very fair points. I think I agree with you -- it would have been nice to find a way to keep some of the existing exhibits but offer some of that additional context and contrast with how indigenous people were being treated at the time. Done correctly, it might have even been more effective than a full replacement.

            2 votes
  3. nothis
    Link
    What I read out of this is a business person sweeping in and wanting a quick "clean slate" solution that is most efficient. There's nothing particularly alarming about them replacing these spaces,...

    The day after Sebastian’s departure, Lohman resigned and was replaced by acting CEO Daniel Muzyka, a veteran of the private equity sector and past dean of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

    What I read out of this is a business person sweeping in and wanting a quick "clean slate" solution that is most efficient. There's nothing particularly alarming about them replacing these spaces, the problem is the indifference towards the museum's own history and the craftsmanship involved. I'm sure a lot of the exhibits could have been changed or repurposed which might have been slower or more expensive but could result in the same end goals without any of the drama.

    4 votes
  4. JCPhoenix
    Link
    Seems strange to do it this way. I understand there are probably physical space issues playing into this. Hard enough cramming hundreds of years of a "single" history into a finite space. To...

    Seems strange to do it this way. I understand there are probably physical space issues playing into this. Hard enough cramming hundreds of years of a "single" history into a finite space.

    To include both, that'd likely require deciding which of the current exhibits needs to go in favor of indigenous exhibits. Which would likely ignite an even greater firestorm.

    So maybe the museum is doing the right things by scrapping it all and starting fresh, in order to encompass a more complete and inclusive history. By saying "we're getting rid of it all, come back in few years when it's all done," they're likely sidestepping a lot of that. Because who knows how much of the decision-making process will be public anyway.

    3 votes
  5. skybrian
    Link
    I’m wondering if anyone remembers visiting this museum and what you thought of the exhibits there? I’ve been to Vancouver but not Victoria, where this museum is.

    I’m wondering if anyone remembers visiting this museum and what you thought of the exhibits there? I’ve been to Vancouver but not Victoria, where this museum is.

    1 vote