An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
WHEN IT COMES TO RECONCILIATION, there are good ideas and bad ideas. The decision by the Royal BC Museum to shut down one of its most popular exhibits is a bad one.
The museum has announced it will dismantle what’s known as the Old Town exhibit. Anyone who’s visited the museum in Victoria will remember this exhibit — it’s a recreation of a Victoria street from the late 1880s and early 1900s, complete with cobblestone streets, a hotel, train station and silent-movie theatre.
It’s part of the Becoming B.C. section, which also includes exhibits on the logging and fishing industries and a partial full-scale model of Capt. George Vancouver’s HMS Discovery. Those, too, will be removed.
According to Tourism Minister Melanie Mark, there’s a need to “decolonize” so-called “settler” exhibits, so they must go.
Truth and reconciliation “demands that we diversify and decolonize the way we share the history of B.C.,” states Mark.
Just how getting rid of exhibits reflecting the exploration and industrial development of our province by Europeans is supposed to help reconciliation is a head scratcher. Certainly, the exhibits in question speak to the colonization of British Columbia but it’s a part of our history and not something that can be erased by doing away with museum exhibits that represent it.
The exhibits are educational and inoffensive. There’s nothing about them that demeans indigenous culture or connection to the land. By all means, expand on the museum’s representations of indigenous history as well as that of the many ethnic groups who came to make B.C. their home. For example, the nearby First Nations Gallery could and should be revamped and expanded. It and Old Town can co-exist..
The vandalizing of statues at least has an understandable rationale, which is that we shouldn’t make heroes of those who led the displacement of indigenous people. The museum’s plan is a baffling over-reach, and amounts to a new form of vandalism.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.