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Letters May 18: Pros and cons of museum proposal; the Richardson Street mess

Blossoms bloom in Thunderbird Park at the Royal B.C. Museum in March. Letter-writers are divided on the province's plan to spend about $1 billion on a new museum and archives facility. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

We have to know where we came from

Museums, galleries and theatres are neither a frill nor an extravagance. Culture has a cost.

The price tag of $789 million for a new museum in the provincial capital sounds in line with what it will take to create a museum that accomplishes an important goal for all British Columbians: Replacing an aging facility with one that acknowledges that history is not white, Eurocentric and male-dominated.

The gasping and pearl-clutching in the letters to the Times Colonist about the cost of this project are understandable in a society that has degraded history, art, philosophy and culture beneath science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Should British Columbia simply forgo having a museum that is inclusive and honouring of First Nations because of the price tag? Failure to do so would further exacerbate the racial disparity that created the furor which is the genesis of the current outrage.

If B.C. were to spend $800 million or more on another two-week Olympic party in Vancouver, the outrage would hardly be as palpable. In fact, one argument for spending that much or more on another Vancouver Olympics would be its “cultural legacy.”

Can the government spend less than $789 million on enshrining this province’s actual cultural and historical legacy in a new museum? Doubtful. As these projects go, it will likely be much more.

But the question is not the cost of a new museum, it is the cost of not having one.

Yes, we could divert that nearly $1 billion into action on homelessness or health care — where it would be a drop in the bucket — but we will be a people who assent to the destructive proposition that history does not matter and culture is just a frill.

If we want effective solutions to our current crises, we have to know not only where we are going but where we came from.

Paul Walton

Existing museum building is in rough shape

I am in favour of the new museum. I worked there for a year in the security department.

People who decry the idea of new museum buildings have no idea of the shape it is in. All they see is the nice open display building.

However, the archives building and tower building are full beyond capacity and dangerous to staff and the artifacts.

Also, the archives building is below sea level, which in our climatic change is a danger. When I was doing security and fire patrols it was hard to navigate through these buildings from the cramped situation.

In recent years our history is been refused as the museum will not take any new material, which is being lost in most cases as people wishing to donate material are told no.

We have been in need of a new facility for years, but the governments of the time have ignored it.

Paul Crozier Smith

New museum could be key to cultural centre

I am in favour of the Royal B.C. Museum project, surprising as that sounds given the overwhelming negative response.

That is not to say I am ignorant of the crises facing us as well as the pandemic recovery, each requiring money and effort to resolve. While acknowledging the importance of these, I always like to look to the future.

Victoria’s housing sector is undergoing rapid change. For balance, an effort to bring our downtown something positive and uplifting should be on the table as well.

I believe we need a new, shiny, vibrant cultural centre. Herein lies my support for a new museum, but we should not stop there: The maritime museum close by on the waterfront, and a site found to construct a purpose-made building for the art gallery an easy walk away, ­preferably to lead people toward shopping and restaurants, Old Town and Chinatown.

Victoria is a lovely old city that is in danger of losing that loveliness under endless highrise buildings. Give us something to be proud of again, something truly world-class.

There are many examples of cities that have been renewed by visions. It takes money and time, but the results have been more than worth it.

A serious headhunting for people who have brought other visions in on time and on/under budget will be required. Scour the Earth for them. They do exist.

Balance, renewal, pride, vibrancy. Victoria needs all of these. Let’s get beyond the wonky start and look to the future.

Joy Robinson

Yes to the new museum, with some concerns

I support the plan for a new museum. I do not, however, believe the museum board or Victoria city council are interested in representing all the people who created our province.

Jim Brookes
Oak Bay

Throwing out the baby along with the bathwater

As one of those who was part of the team that created the exhibits at the museum, I have a few thoughts to express.

I am curious about the abundance of asbestos in both the exhibits and the Fannin Tower. During my time at the museum, major asbestos abatement took place in both locations and it was essentially removed from the building — or so we were told.

At that point all artifact storage was also upgraded. If the museum is seismically at risk and has accessibility issues, then much older structures such as the legislature, Empress hotel and other significant heritage structures are even more at risk.

To single out the museum, which was built much later and presumably to higher standards, seems to me a rather weak argument for its dissolution and demolition.

If it is in such poor shape, and I wonder if it is, then it is a sad reflection on those responsible for our province’s heritage.

If the museum administration and the budget had allowed over the years, maintenance and upgrading, including re-interpretation, would have naturally occurred to reflect current concerns. Instead, over time, exhibits were demolished with a negative effect on coverage of essential issues, history and the visitor experience.

I am thinking particularly of the First Nations political gallery through which visitors exited after experiencing the First Nations exhibit.

It appears to me that a series of decisions have been made for whatever reasons, and the only way forward is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and without a well-formulated and readily executable plan.

Visions are a dime a dozen, as are promises, but if they are not realistically and immediately implementable, why destroy a museum that had such a powerful and positive influence on generations?

Tom Palfrey

Don’t worry, museum will be paid off

I would never disparage the opinions of other letter-writers, but equating the spending of money on a (hopefully) magnificent new museum versus the spending on health care is absurd.

Capital projects frequently cost a boatload of money (fast-ferry pun intended) and then are paid off.

On the other hand, the embedded cost of raising remuneration for doctors, health workers or all the other deserving causes is permanent and never-ending.

As a trade unionist, I support the demands for better pay for workers of all stripes. I have full confidence in the representatives of doctors and heath care workers to do their jobs in getting paid appropriately. That’s what unions and “doctors’ associations” are for.

To make the point, just remember why employers like signing bonuses rather than percentage wage increases. The latter are embedded forever and the bonuses are one-time expenditures.

Think of the new museum as one hell of a bonus. It will be paid off.

Max Miller

Better uses for money being spent on museum

It just cost me twice as much to fill my gas tank as it did this time last year and the province wants to spend almost a billion dollars on a new museum.

My kids are moving to Alberta because they could not afford a home here, and the government wants to spend a billion dollars on a new museum.

My wife and I can’t get the medical care we both require, and the government wants to spend a billion dollars on a new museum.

Inflation is skyrocketing while my pension remains fixed, and the government wants to spend a billion dollars on a new museum.

This reckless, tone-deaf government wants to misspend a billion of our tax dollars on what I can only assume will be a monument to identity politics and a “woke washing” of our history.

The mind boggles at just how out of touch Premier John Horgan and his cabal really are. Are there no fiscal conservatives left in this province?

Len Dafoe
Nanoose Bay

Richardson changes make no sense

The recent changes to Richardson Street between Cook Street and Foul Bay Road are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

I have heard the phrase from City Hall — “traffic evaporation,” thinking when Richardson is closed, traffic will evaporate. Well it does not evaporate, it simply moves to other side streets.

I cross Richardson about five times every day at different cross streets. Since the changes have been completed, I have seen a total of seven bike riders using Richardson. In the meantime traffic has doubled past two elementary schools on Fairfield Road.

How does this make sense? I wonder if the city planners who came up with this ludicrous plan think they have spotted Captain Kirk hovering above Richardson Street in the starship Enterprise. Odds are pretty good, I would think.

Paul Baldwin

What to pay doctors if you want to keep them

Pay GPs running walk-in clinics and other practices, what you now pay nurse practitioners. That is, enough money to support a clinic and make a living.

I mean, how hard can that be? Stop saying it is complicated. Sheesh.

Jim Parker
James Bay


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