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EDITORIAL – Plans to gut museum exhibit amount to a form of vandalism

(Image: Royal BC Museum)

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 mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (8573 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on EDITORIAL – Plans to gut museum exhibit amount to a form of vandalism

  1. Shirley Culver // November 8, 2021 at 5:41 PM // Reply

    Your editorial tonight on CFJC above is right on.

  2. Marie Luise Bot // November 8, 2021 at 1:04 PM // Reply

    am saddened this is happening – am sensitive to Truth and Reconcilliation – love the history of Canada – am a new Canadian (1956 from Germany) and have seen the changes that have been had: as a young girl our neighbors across the street (East Van) were Japanese – we went to school with them and loved their different culture — (our mom was part Jewish and well read) the older girl my age, tried to commit suicide by drinking bleach …. thru the years and learning what happened to Japanese , so reflected why she would do this – then I understood, – I learned the history and so history and learning and comparing other lands (coming from Germany – awful stuff) and then Japanese internment camps here in BC / evidenced by , again, history documentaries of Steveston B.C. and how one family was affected…. there is so much ‘history’ we should keep and reflect upon… all an educational experience.

  3. That’s a good way to put it MR. A new kind of vandalism. Silly and crappy woke culture!
    Hopefully with enough push back the minister will cease and desist.

  4. Agree in full. Erasing or rewriting history will not change history; in the past, in Russia, for example, such attempted drew international scorn as the obvious pandering to a past we no longer like. As kids we all wet our pants and wore diapers; the white man mistreated the natives. It happened worldwide. Recognize it and wear the result, but recognize that we are not responsible for our history, except to do our best to recognize when and where it went wrong. Burying it is no help.

  5. Ian MacKenzie // November 8, 2021 at 7:06 AM // Reply

    Certainly agree with the expanding of history, not the contraction. History and herstory are what happened, good and bad. Why would you ignore the fact they happened? Would you ever pick up and read half a story book if it was exciting. I, personally, feel that all history shoucl be recorded, warts and all. It happened.

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