Recently, some University of Victoria students interviewed Erik Lambertson, the corporate communications manager at the Royal British Columbia Museum (RBCM). The goal of the interview was to gather information on the ways in which the museum supports and provides a valuable educational experience to diverse newcomers (immigrants and refugees) to the Greater Victoria area. The museum was founded in 1886 and includes the province of British Columbia’s natural and human history collections and the BC Archives. The RBCM is also a member of the Community Partnership Network- a network of approximately 240 local agencies, businesses and institutions that work together toward building diverse, inclusive and supportive communities within Greater Victoria. The RBCM is a long time member of the Community Partnership Network (CPN) and has undertaken a number of training and education initiatives to promote diversity.
The Royal BC Museum is an excellent starting point for those wanting to learn more about BC’s unique cultural history. Knowledge of the cultural history held within a place is critical to the development of cultural awareness. When settling into a new location, this awareness brings an understanding of the diversity of cultures present and assists in building understanding and empathy amongst diverse groups and building bridges across cultural divides.
For example, the Royal BC Museum currently features an exhibition entitled: Family: Bonds and Belonging. Visitors are able to walk into a living interactive photo album and discover the truths and secrets of some of the First Nation families, early settler families and immigrants from all over the world who began their families here. The exhibit provides an opportunity to understand how family traditions have both changed and stayed the same. It is an opportunity to explore stories from early and contemporary families, and to appreciate the traditions brought to BC by immigrant families and discover more about our own family.
The Royal BC Museum is also home to thousands of artifacts that include up to 10,000 years of First Nations cultural history in BC. In support of local First Nations and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the museum promotes its mandate for advancing public education about First Nation’s history and culture. To help promote indigenous culture and history, the museum annually hosts the Aboriginal Cultural Festival. The museum also features an enormously popular permanent exhibit entitled the ‘First Peoples Gallery’. Additionally, the First Peoples Cultural Council (FPCC) worked in partnership with the museum to develop the feature exhibition, ‘Our Living Languages’, which opened in June, 2014. The FPCC was involved in interpretation of the materials in order to facilitate a comprehensive understanding and accurate representation.
The museum has approximately 125 staff members and 500 volunteers many of whom are multi-lingual. This includes “Visitor Experience Designers’ who have been trained through the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria on how to utilize Google Translate. Floor plans of the museum are also available in eight different languages and can be accessed here: http://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/visit/plan-your-visit/maps-guides
The museum also offers a number of lectures and special educational events, both on site and in the community, where admission is by donation. Their online calendar is updated regularly and can be viewed here: http://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/visit/calendar
In terms of access, the museum hosts an event entitled ‘Community Days’, during the first week of January each year where admission is by donation. Free family passes are also available year round for check out through the Greater Victoria Public Library.