BCMA Statement: February 2021
Trust is central to the very concept of what a museum is and it is something that our sector can easily take for granted.
The Canadian Museums Act of 1990 states that museums “hold [items] in trust” for the public, and nearly nine out of ten Canadians (89%) say they trust museums, galleries, and science centres as sources of information. Trust is something that is not given lightly and, if abused, is not easy to recover.
Over the past year, museum and cultural professionals across the country have courageously spoken out against institutionalized racism, toxic work environments, and discrimination in the museum sector, illuminating an ugly truth about our sector that has for too long been shrouded in darkness: that racism exists in the museum sector. While this is certainly not news, especially for racialized and marginalized Canadians who have long been underrepresented and misrepresented by museums, these voices show that the trust that is central to the very concept of what a museum is, has not been, and is not currently, experienced equally by all Canadians.
The main office of the BC Museums Association (BCMA) is located inside the Royal BC Museum, on the unceded lands of the Lekwungen (Songhees and Xwsepsum Nations). As a provincial organization, the Royal BC Museum plays a critical leadership role, both within BC’s museum sector and in furthering reconciliation and repatriation in the province. The Royal BC Museum is undergoing a significant reassessment of leadership and internal practices after Lucy Bell and others have spoken out against institutionalized racism within the organization. It is our most sincere hope that the Royal BC Museum uses this opportunity to embrace change and to take an active role in helping to lead our sector to a brighter, more inclusive future.
It is imperative that museums recognize that our work is not neutral and commit to working harder than ever to build, and rebuild, our communities’ trust. To do this, we must first acknowledge that the history of museums is directly tied to colonial systems of oppression and then we must commit to structural change to address this legacy. Structural change involves ensuring that room is made for diverse voices at all levels of our sector, especially in leadership roles, ensuring that people are fairly compensated for their ideas and time, ensuring that reconciliation is a foundational principle in our practices, ensuring that our programs and spaces are inclusive and accessible to all, and critically, ensuring that every single person is respected and valued.
Building trust is slow and difficult, but absolutely essential. The BC Museums Association is committed to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the museum sector and in our own organizational practices. With our members, partners, and supporters we pledge to do the work needed to ensure that the public’s trust is valued, respected, and earned.
Honesty and transparency are a critical part of this work and we welcome our members’ feedback on how we can continue to grow and improve. To share our journey in supporting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our own organizational practices, we are publishing quarterly updates. If you have questions, comments, or thoughts, please contact us at any time. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss how the BCMA can support your organization’s own justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work, we would be happy to hear from you.