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Letters Dec. 22: RBCM management deserves a pink slip; remember our history, don't rewrite it

Letter-writers suggest the Royal B.C. Museum is shooting itself in the foot by closing the third-floor exhibits without having a plan for their replacement. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Fire the management at the Royal B.C. Museum

Re: “Royal B.C. Museum sees rush for last look at Old Town before it’s dismantled,” Dec. 19.

It is hard to describe the anger I felt at this article. The article itself was good and informative of a ludicrous ideologically driven decision as a knee-jerk reaction of a penitent dominant culture to complaints that people’s feelings were hurt by the current exhibition.

I get it. I agree.

But for a museum management and board to close down a much-loved section of the museum for (now) five years (up from three a few weeks ago) whilst they weep and gnash their teeth over past injustices is narcissistic and a dereliction of their duty.

Can you imagine any museum management leaving prime exhibition space fallow for five years? They should all be fired. They will be crawling for funds to tide them over when no one goes to the museum for five years.

This is beyond ludicrous. My anger is having a field day.

Martin Golder
Retired architect and mediator

We ignore history at our own peril

I support the retention of the Old Town exhibit in the Royal B.C. Museum by placing the matter in a broader context.

The German Historical Museum in Berlin and the former Nazi Party headquarters in Munich house extensive exhibitions of Nazi memorabilia to make sure that the Nazi era is never forgotten; in front of many residences across Germany, brass plaques commemorate individuals and families who were forcibly removed by the Nazis and, in most cases, sent to concentration camps.

My purpose in mentioning these facts is not to equate Nazi atrocities with European settlers’ suppression of the Indigenous inhabitants of B.C., although there is little to venerate in the latter, but to draw attention to the Germans’ determination to face up to a period in their history of mystifying brutality.

We constantly walk in fear of offending, and are all too ready to sweep unpleasant facts and events under the carpet and pretend they never happened.

If the first casualty of so-called wokeness is humour, the second is historical truth; rather than protecting ourselves and our descendants from the evils of colonialism, we should surely be cherishing a reminder of the wrongs that European settlers committed but also of the ways in which they struggled to come to terms with an unfamiliar and often harsh environment.

Santayana was right. It is our history, and we ignore it at our peril.

Robert Cameron

Let’s try compromise, leave Old Town as it is

Old Town in the Royal B.C. Museum is an incredible jewel for visitors and residents alike, and depicts a time in Victoria’s history as to how the designers viewed life at a particular point in time.

The depiction represents the views as to how they accurately represented local life. It may be really inaccurate, or close to real life, how can anybody tell?

Turns out that every time our brains recall a story from the past, it comes up with a different story, because human imaginations change the story, every time it is told.

So who is to say that the new stories will be any more of an accurate depiction of history than the current displays, regardless of who is telling the stories?

Human brains are the same regardless of race, culture, gender, etc. They all will tell stories differently each time they are repeated.

Surely there must be room for compromise here. Leave Old Town alone. Refresh and build new exhibits, but consider how well the public respects the Old Town exhibits.

Rodger Darbey

Let’s not be like Orwell’s Winston Smith

Surely the twin cancers of political correctness and revisionism have plummeted to a new low. I refer to the Dec. 19 article on the imminent trashing of Royal B.C. Museum exhibits that have withstood the harsh test of time for 50 years.

These exhibits are immensely popular, and are an accurate representation of our history as it unfolded. Many highly talented professionals, some of whom are my close friends, laboured tirelessly to create what is now a world-class venue.

When my four children, now 50-plus, were young they enjoyed nothing more than to visit what was then our museum. They were both amazed and enchanted by the exhibits, and learned much therefrom.

The topping of their visit was always watching Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy in the Old Town theatre.

Why on earth have the layout and composition of the museum become the purview of new age know-nothings rather than that of the scientists, historians and artisans who have elevated it to the world-class status it currently enjoys?

Has anyone consulted our First Nations spokespersons to ask whether they approve of the planned carnage? We cannot deny history: we Caucasians overran and oppressed the then-existing Indigenous culture, tore children from their families to be physically and sexually abused by cruel and sacreligious church personnel and attempted to wipe out their languages and their culture.

Still, the museum exhibits accurately represent how the world was in the days it purports to depict.

Addition is always preferable to subtraction: rather than trying to obliterate how the world was in those days, we should, in co-operation with our Indigenous Peoples, create new exhibits that clearly portray the damage we Caucasians have inflicted upon upon our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, with a view to righting the consequent wrongs.

I hope that we Caucasians, as immigrants and conquerors, will not choose to ape Orwell’s Winston Smith, who laboured in the “Ministry of Truth” to revise the history books to conform with Big Brother’s perverted world vision.

John C. Simpson

Engage the public before wholesale change

The Royal British Columbia Museum and Archives is one of the world’s great museums.

In my professional capacity as a museum consultant with a background in strategic impact and audience research, I can think of no other museum that offers immersive experiences of such quality and depth that have stood the test of time and continue to engage and enthrall visitors of all ages.

This does not preclude change, and RBCM is to be commended for its willingness to address current questions of representation and decolonization.

However, the museum is a public institution that belongs to the people of British Columbia whose taxes pay for its continuing presence and upkeep. To decide on the wholesale dismantling of the Human History galleries before widespread consultation with the public, in the absence of the necessary research to support change and without a clear timeline and plan for redevelopment (as reported in the Times Colonist on Dec. 19) is neither good management nor good governance.

RBCM is a provincial institution and the people and the Government of British Columbia can insist that public consultation, research and a road map for change are in place before the dismantling of existing galleries and the disbursement of objects.

Change that involves and is negotiated with the public, rather than imposed on it, is more likely to receive support and reflect the multiple viewpoints which RBCM claims to be seeking.

Carol Scott, museum consultant
London, U.K.

Richardson is busier, but not with bicycles

Interesting how folks have started driving Richardson Street again, transiting from downtown to Fairfield, Gonzales and Oak Bay.

I was stopped going south on Foul Bay at the corner of Richardson and there was a line up of three cars to enter onto Foul Bay from the west. One car darted across to McNeill. Is it actually illegal to drive on Richardson?

Richardson west of Moss Street also seems busier.

The idiocy of proclaiming Richardson a bikeway is becoming clearer every day. Choking traffic is the result on Fairfield and Fort with very rare cycling usage on Richardson.

Patrick Skillings


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