The Royal British Columbia Museum is beginning the process of decolonization by closing down its entire third floor.
Closures of some galleries on the third floor will begin this month with a full closure starting in Jan. 2, 2022.
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The museum’s third floor is known as the First Peoples Gallery and it includes the exhibits “Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in B.C.” and “Becoming B.C.”
The third-floor galleries will be recreated to include a more diverse range of perspectives on the province’s history.
Acting CEO Daniel Muzyka said a new approach was long overdue.
“As part of our work to implement modernized museum practices, in particular our efforts around decolonization, we will be closing the third-floor so we can decant our galleries,” he said.
“This is necessary to begin the long-term work of creating new narratives that include under-represented voices and reflect the lived experiences and contemporary stories of the people in B.C..”
Muzyka said that the creation of new exhibits will be done through consultations with First Nations and Indigenous groups.
“Part of consultation is responding to the fact that people said ‘Do something about it, its offensive, we don’t want to bring our kids there, it makes it look like Indigenous people didn’t play an important part of our history,’” Tourism Minister Melanie Mark said.
But former curator Troy Sebastian said mere consultation wouldn’t be enough to address concerns with the museum.
“Indigenous stories need to be told by Indigenous peoples,” he told Global News.
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“There needs to be indigenous peoples in the museum leading this charge, leading this direction. And the fact that that’s not part of the announcement today really says a lot about where the museum is really at.”
In June, Muzyka, who took over as CEO after Jack Lohman stepped down, apologized to an Indigenous whistleblower after a report cited acts of racism and discrimination at the attraction in Victoria.
The report stemmed from an independent investigation by the B.C. Public Service Agency and a separate inclusion and psychological safety audit commissioned by the museum’s board.
The investigation found acts of racism and discrimination against Indigenous team members and other people of colour. The report said leadership did not “effectively handle the behaviour and conditions that fostered these acts.”
It also said the museum’s core galleries, particularly human history exhibits, are outdated, some displays are offensive and they reinforce the colonial history of the province.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Kamil Karmali
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