Posted on November 10, 2021

Canadian Museum Closes Indigenous Galleries to Begin ‘the Process of Decolonisation’

Dorian Batycka, Art Newspaper, November 10, 2021

In order to begin ​​what it dubs “the process of decolonisation”, the Royal British Columbia Museum (RBCM) in Victoria, British Columbia, announced on 3 November that it would be closing its third floor gallery spaces. In a statement posted to the museum’s website, acting chief executive Daniel Muzyka said that the changes were “long overdue”.

“As part of our work to implement modernised museum practices, in particular our efforts around decolonisation, we will be closing the third-floor so we can decant our galleries,” Muzyka said. “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 BC.”

The museum’s third floor includes its permanent First Peoples gallery, the “Becoming BC” gallery and the exhibition Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in BC, all of which will be phased out and eventually replaced by 2 January 2022. The third floor’s exhibits, critics say, unfairly positioned European settler history above Indigenous and First Nations groups.

{snip} Troy Sebastian / Nupqu ʔa·kǂ am̓, a writer and member of the Ktunaxa Nation who previously served as curator of the museum’s Indigenous Collection, said calls to change the exhibits had been happening for years, writing, “Indigenous peoples have been telling the museum that its depiction of Indigenous peoples in the gallery is racist, dehumanizing and harmful.”


The museum, one of Canada’s oldest, is situated in central Victoria on the unceded territories of the Lekwungen (Songhees and Xwsepsum Nations). It was founded in 1886 and today contains more than 7 million objects, including natural history specimens, works by First Nations groups and archaeological artefacts, as well as the British Columbia Archives collection of historical documents.


“Our government’s commitment to truth and reconciliation demands that we diversify and decolonise the way we share the history of BC,” said Melanie Mark, the province’s minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport. {snip}