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Comment: Nobody wants museum's Discovery or Old Town gone

"The whole tale of B.C. cannot be fully told without more Asian, Black and Indigenous stories. Hopefully that is what will be addressed when the museum’s authorities renovate it."
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Exhibits in the Becoming B.C. Gallery chronicling early European settler history — such as Old Town, the logging and fishery industries and Capt. George Vancouver's ship, Discovery — will close in January. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A commentary by a Haida journalist, writer, and University of Victoria graduate.

Nobody has any clear idea what the Royal B.C. Museum’s administration plans to do with the third floor. The statement from the museum’s acting CEO, Daniel Muzyka, was devoid of details and opened the door to troubling speculation.

The accompanying address by Melanie Mark, the minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, was equally empty. Both broadly spoke of “decolonization,” which is particularly unhelpful because that term can mean anything to anyone.

“Decolonization” can mean illegally ripping down statues in Victoria’s harbour or changing education to better reflect the history of B.C. In the case of the RBCM, they should take inspiration from the latter.

There is no question that the Becoming B.C. section of the third floor unacceptably lacks representation of any culture that is not British. The whole tale of B.C. cannot be fully told without more Asian, Black and Indigenous stories. Hopefully that is what will be addressed when the museum’s authorities renovate it.

It would be terrible if the recreations of the HMS Discovery and Old Town are removed forever in the name of reconciliation. They are irreplaceable and they’re great fun. I am Indigenous and their removal would not “reconcile” me to the museum at all.

It would be part of this strange new idea in Canada that physical objects representing anything or anyone from before 1980 are literally harmful to Indigenous people. “Harm” is the latest word to be abused beyond repair these days.

Despite whatever abstract nonsense our alleged thought leaders are cooking up these days, I’m not “harmed” by the presence of the Discovery and Old Town. It is a ludicrously patronizing and offensive theory.

Far worse things than pastiches of 18th-century boats have caused harm to Indigenous people in Canada. Cheap food makes the McDonald’s on Douglas Street more harmful to me than the recreated rear-end of the Discovery.

I’d probably skip my next trip to the RBCM if they remove the Discovery and Old Town. The giant woolly mammoth on the second floor is always lovely, but it doesn’t justify paying $27 for a museum ticket.

Contrary to the silly idea that Indigenous people are inherently allergic to them, I like walking through well-built replicas of historical ships and cobblestone streets.

People in general tend to enjoy it regardless of their ethnicity. It’s immersive and unforgettable. The smell of tar as you walk on the wooden boards of the Discovery stirs fond childhood memories.

Many other sections of Becoming B.C. are great too. The taxidermied horse in the Peace River scene is oddly endearing.

The third floor is not perfect at all. It desperately needs input from Indigenous experts to revamp the First Peoples Gallery.

The 20th Century Hall section is flat-out boring. It could easily be converted into a section for new stories that haven’t been told by the museum yet. Few people will miss seeing the haphazardly assembled collection of items from your grandparent’s yard sale.

Muzyka would do everybody a favour by providing some more details about the third floor’s renovations in the next week.

Nobody wants the Discovery or Old Town gone. They wouldn’t cause anybody harm unless they physically collapsed and crushed a group of tourists from Seattle or Germany.

The RBCM can be made better by revamping the First Peoples Gallery and adding non-white voices to the Becoming B.C. section. Please and thank you.

Don’t rob current and future generations of enjoying the rest of it.