Royal B.C. Museum starts decolonization of galleries this month, says acting CEO

Royal B.C. Museum starts decolonization of galleries this month, says acting CEO
WatchAfter facing a year of allegations of racism and discrimination, the Royal B.C. Museum is starting 'the process of decolonization'. Former employees say it's long overdue.

VICTORIA — The Royal British Columbia Museum is closing some sections of its galleries as it embarks on an effort to decolonize the institution.

Daniel Muzyka, the museum’s acting CEO, says in a statement that the closures in some galleries on the third floor will start this month ahead of January’s full closure of the floor, which largely comprises Indigenous exhibits.

He says the start of the decolonization process responds to calls from Indigenous leaders to make the institution a welcoming place for everybody.

Muzyka said the museum is acting after reports were released earlier this year on allegations of racist and toxic working conditions at the institution, which operates as a Crown corporation.

Muzyka, the former dean at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder school of business, was appointed acting CEO in February following the resignation of Jack Lohman, who held the top post since 2012.

The museum’s third floor is known as the First Peoples Gallery and it includes the exhibits “Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in B.C.” and “Becoming B.C.”

“As part of our work to implement modernized museum practices, in particular our efforts around decolonization, we will be closing the third floor so we can decant our galleries,” said Muzyka. “This is necessary to begin the long-term work of creating new narratives that include under-represented voices and reflect the lived experiences and contemporary stories of the people in B.C.”

A 33-page report released in June from an independent investigation by the B.C. Public Service Agency found acts of racism and discrimination against Indigenous team members and other people of colour. It also said the museum’s core galleries, particularly human history exhibits, are outdated, some displays are offensive and they reinforce the colonial history of the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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