Update on the BCMA’s Ongoing Commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: June 2022
The BC Museums Association is committed to supporting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the museum and cultural sector and in our own organizational practices. A key component of this commitment is being open and transparent with our community. We aim to provide quarterly updates about the steps we are taking to support justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. If you have feedback or would like to share your thoughts, we encourage you to contact us at any time. To read our past updates, please visit this page.
Content Warning: This post deals with child death and Indian Residential Schools
Museums are seen by the vast majority of Canadians as trusted sources of public education. Our sector has a moral obligation to use the trust that Canadians have in us to make space for difficult conversations, combat misinformation, and redress the harm that museums have caused by reinforcing untrue colonial narratives. Residential School denialism is on the rise in Canada and museums have a responsibility to address it.
In the past months, around the one-year anniversary of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation’s announcement confirming 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, articles were published in the National Post in Canada and the New York Post in the United States that questioned the validity of these graves and challenged the overall human cost of residential schools. Beyond these two articles, it appears that Resident School denialism is on the rise in Canada, one simply has to read the comments section on articles discussing Residential Schools, or look at social media discourse to find examples of denialism. The more light that is shone on the destructive history of the colonization of Canada, the more factions of our society who want to uphold the status quo will fight to keep these histories shrouded in darkness.
As noted, Canadians trust museums as sources of information and turn to our institutions to help understand the past. There are a great many injustices in the world that museums cannot directly address, but helping our communities to better understand the past is something that is squarely within our wheelhouse. As July 1st approaches and museums plan events, exhibits, and activities that commemorate Canada Day, now is an excellent time to reflect on how to use your platform within your community to recontextualize the past.
It is important to note that museums, galleries, and cultural institutions that use their platforms to have these difficult conversations with their communities will likely face backlash. For example, last year when an article the BCMA published contextualizing the #CancelCanadaDay movement was cited in a Globe & Mail article, we received several hate emails bemoaning the “woke” “destruction of history.” Last month when the BCMA published an op-ed discussing the critical importance of repatriation, someone went so far as to leave a slur-filled voicemail on our answering machine.
If you find yourself or your museum caught in a cycle of online or media outrage, Colleen Morgan, Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, wrote an article exploring her recent experience being targeted by “the outrage machine.” In this article Morgan offers tips and strategies for minimizing the impact of online outrage.
If you have seen examples of museums, galleries, or cultural institutions helping their communities to confront the human impact of colonization, we would love for you to share that example with us. The BCMA seeks to highlight the work our sector is doing to challenge the status quo and is always looking for institutions and individuals to feature in our webinars, workshops, podcast, or annual conference.
Resources for Addressing Residential School Denialism:
Culture executive Karen Carter will lead the IBPOC Museum Professionals Network’s latest webinar on community-centred approaches to museum exhibits and programs this June. Geared toward self-identifying IBPOC/BIPOC museum, heritage, and cultural professionals, participants will learn how to become a co-conspirator for DEIA, build relationships not just partnerships, and what a call-and-response communications model is.
We continue to receive regular programming and engagement feedback from the IBPOC Museum Professionals Network Advisory Group and community members. In response, we are working to provide a second recurring session focused on how IBPOC/BIPOC museum, heritage, and cultural professionals can further their careers, encourage emerging professionals, and navigate situations within their workplace all with the goal of strengthening IBPOC/BIPOC representation in the sector.
Following Network participant suggestions and with guidance from the Advisory Group, we aim to expand learning resources and engagement opportunities available for IBPOC/BIPOC professionals on our website.
We continue to strive to provide effective programming and safe(r) spaces for all British Columbians who identify as IBPOC/BIPOC museum, heritage, and cultural professionals. If you have any suggestions or questions about the IBPOC Network, please email Koy Tayler.
Queer(y)ing Museums Podcast series
The final episode of the first season of the Queer(y)ing Museums podcast has recently been published. Queer(y)ing Museums seeks to deepen the discussions begun in the Gender & Sexuality Inclusion Toolkit and highlight great work being done around the province and beyond.
You can listen to Queer(y)ing Museums Episode 5: Angelic Goldsky & The Transgender Expressions Haven online and we look forward to a second season of the podcast launching later this year. Thank you to Desirée, Tanya, and the amazing array of guests for making this podcast series come to life!
BCMA & Heritage BC Joint Conference
Act I of our virtual Joint Conference with Heritage BC brought the province’s culture and heritage sector together for three days of collaboration, leadership, and redress.
Daily themes helped focus conversations on how we can be leaders in our communities and recognize our roles in decolonization. Sessions featured topics such as grassroots mutual aid, disruption and activism in memory institutions, and changes to geographic names.
It was important for us to showcase the diverse perspectives of sector leaders from institutions big and small. There were also several networking opportunities for attendees to discuss, decompress, and take action based on the important, and often difficult, conversations highlighted throughout the month.
Our team prioritized accessibility during the Conference. Closed captioning, ASL interpretation, inclusive designs, and verbal cues and descriptions from speakers were made available for almost all of our sessions.
We are excited to explore the topics and conversations started in May further during Act II this fall.
This spring, the BCMA was happy to offer the following webinars to promote conversations around equity in the museum sector. Recordings can be freely accessed using the links below:
- Addressing and Aiding Burnout
- Digital Accessibility & Social Media 101
- Living Wages in BC
- Demystifying Unions
- How Museums Can Identify and Address Hate
- Getting to Know Dementia and Becoming Dementia-Friendly
- In Your Wheelhouse: Asking The Right Questions
Repatriation Call to Action
On May 18, 2021, the BCMA launched the Repatriation Call to Action aimed at museums to make commitments to improving repatriation efforts at their institutions. Now, one year later, the BCMA is calling for public education about repatriation as an extension of this Call to Action.
Public education on repatriation and its importance are key for our sector to move toward decolonization and reconciliation. Collections are held by museums in public trust, therefore the public should know the context and harm collecting continues to have on Indigenous communities. We urge museums to provide public resources about the origins of museum collections and share how repatriation can help heal the relationships between museums and Indigenous communities.
BCMA will provide hand-selected resources to Repatriation Call to Action signees’, meant to help organizations and their staff engage the public and each other in ongoing learning and understanding of repatriation and reconciliation work. These resources aim to assist organizations that support repatriation, but do not have collections to repatriate or are in the process of completing last year’s actions, and wish to further include the public in these efforts. Organizations and individuals can learn more and sign the Repatriation Call to Action from the website.
During BC Museums Week we also published an op-ed about the critical importance of repatriation to the future of the museum sector in the Times Colonist. You can find the op-ed here.
One of the central strategic priorities of the BCMA is to advocate not only for the needs of our members, but for funding, legislation, and action that support long-overdue change in the heritage sector. Recently the BCMA has been able to advocate for the following changes and investments on the provincial and federal levels:
- Repatriation funding: In a recent presentation to the BC Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, BCMA Executive Director Ryan Hunt urged the government to create an annual fund for repatriation, saying:
- “The lack of dependable provincial funding for repatriation research and work halts the progress of Indigneous communities in building relationships with museums across the world that hold their ancestors and property. Even a small stream of annual funding would allow communities to actively plan future repatriation, leverage available federal funds, and make progress in redressing past harms.”
- Updating Young Canada Works: The BCMA is working with peer Provincial and Territorial Museum Associations to urge the Department of Canadian Heritage to modernize the YCW program, especially to remove arbitrary age restrictions for funding. The BCMA has recently been able to advocate for these changes at the National Culture Summit and in follow-up meetings with senior staff from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
- Operational funding supports equity: The BCMA is working to advocate with provincial and federal funders that operational funding is a key component in building a more equitable sector. Operational funding allows organizations to invest in staff, build new community relationships, and experiment with their programs and exhibits. Whenever possible we are making a clear connection between governments’ desire to promote equity with the need for operational funding.
MOU between BCMA and UBC ACRE
The BCMA is excited to announce the start of a partnership with UBC’s new Centre for Asian Canadian Research and Engagement (ACRE) which seeks to improve heritage practices through work in anti-racism, decolonization, social justice and workplace equity.
During BC Museums Week, BCMA Executive Director Ryan Hunt hosted a fireside chat with Dr. Henry Yu from ACRE for a first public conversation on how we hope to work together. Watch the recording, or listen to the podcast version.
The BCMA and Animikii Indigenous Technology are partnering to co-develop a new online course offering arts, culture, and museum workers wise practices in supporting reconciliation. There is no one path to creating meaningful, trusting relationships with Indigenous communities, so this online course will include interviews, case studies, and readings from diverse organizations that share educational successes and failures to empower museum and heritage professionals to reflect on their own individual practices, organizations, and community contexts.
Work on this online course will begin in the summer of 2022 with community and museum consultations happening in the fall and winter. The BCMA hopes to launch a beta version of the course in early 2023.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the 150 Time Immemorial Grant Program and the BC Arts Council Impact Grant as well as the Government of Canada through the Museum Assistance Program’s Digital Access to Heritage grant.
Honesty and transparency are a critical part of this work and we welcome our members’ feedback on how we can continue growing and improving. 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. This work will take time, but together we can use the transformative power of museums to reinvent our sector for the betterment of everyone.