This Week in History: Family: Bonds and Belonging asks “what is a family?”

This Week in History:  Family: Bonds and Belonging asks "what is a family?"

The Royal BC Museum’s ‘Family: Bonds and Belonging‘ exhibition looks at our many, varied relationships with each other.

“In our exhibition ‘Families’ we were asking the question, ‘what is a family?’  And there’s so many possible answers and different experiences, that it’s impossible to put them all on the walls of one exhibit,” Learning Program Developer Kim Gough said.

But the Royal BC Museum (RBCM)did a terrific job of incorporating many stories, using photographs, family films and videos, displaying clothing through the generations, and many other items.   And the museum created new family stories in the Community Dialogue section.

“People can record their stories, and we can hear their voices,” says Gough.  “We have people on video, we involved a focus group to talk about stories and images that were important, and one of our programs has been a discussion series called ‘It’s complicated.’

This is not a lecture series with one person speaking from a podium, explains Gough. “It is an effort to get people talking, and having a dialogue in a safe place.”

Lorne Hammond, curator of history at RBCM, points out museums are not just about history.

“Not everything we do is collecting objects from the past,” says Hammond.  “We had a lot of discussions out of ‘Family’ about families of association, and also, what are we doing about contemporary issues.”

Discussions have included intergenerational communication, gender issues, new immigrants, legal matters, and Tent City – a story from Victoria’s recent past that Hammond wanted to save for future generations.

“It had elements of threat and violence. All the difficulties of life on the streets became condensed in one little neighbourhood and sparked a tremendous discussion about what kind of cities we want for the future, and how we’ll handle the issues of the present,” Hammond said.

“When the court injunction came down that Tent City was being disassembled, I was walked in, with the help of activists, and introduced to the council. So we did some very rapid response collecting and brought objects from Tent City into our permanent collection. One of the objects was a memorial cross to a young man who had died, and for most of the people in Tent City, he was a stranger. His first name was Brad, and he was discovered on Boxing Day [December 26, 2016] morning, dead in his tent of an overdose – part of the opioid crisis.”

“History is not just what happens in the past” stresses Gough. “You know, it’s happening all around us all the time, and it’s expressed in many different ways.”

Family: Bonds and Belonging continues at the Royal BC Museum until Oct. 31.

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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