Skip to main content

Good morning. Wendy in Vancouver here.

Provincial museums are meant to tell a province’s story to its people and to those who visit from elsewhere. But they are also cultural icons that need to reflect the evolution of thinking and learning in the places they serve, constantly giving new context to artifacts and displays that can be hundreds or thousands of years old.

Victoria’s Royal BC Museum is in for such an update and its CEO wants to wipe the slate clean and start afresh in a new building. The provincial government, it appears, is listening.

As Ian Bailey writes this weekend, the 51-year-old facility across the street from the BC Legislature is home to the world’s largest collection of Emily Carr paintings, sketches and other possessions of the legendary artist. The originals of the Douglas Treaties, which helped to set the foundation for modern British Columbia, are there. So, incongruously, is John Lennon’s 1960s-era Rolls Royce, a vehicle once used by the Beatles to go to Buckingham Palace to be honoured by the Queen and bought by B.C.-based billionaire Jimmy Pattison.

The museum’s collection totals more than seven million artifacts. But CEO Jack Lohman says the facility needs to find new ways for the collection to address global issues of extinction, biodiversity loss, First Nations’ history and the impact of Asia on B.C.

“We need to rewrite the story of British Columbia. I think everybody in the province agrees it doesn’t begin in 1778 with the arrival of James Cook. It actually goes back several thousand years," he said.

“What’s wrong is we’re peddling a narrative that is way out of date.”

A new building would be in the range of several hundred million dollars and the museum and the province say estimations on what such a project would look like or cost are too early. For contrast, upgrades to the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, completed last October, cost $375-million.

But it’s hard to fault Mr. Lohman for his vision.

Other museums and galleries are also finding new ways to ensure their content and the stories they tell are relevant.

The Art Gallery of Hamilton hosts an Artful Moments program aimed at people with dementia and their caregivers. It’s part of a trend toward offering art therapy inside such institutions to broaden a reach into all segments of the community.

In Newfoundland, the government and First Nations are in consultations with how to honor the remains of a Beothuk couple who died by violence 200 years ago and whose remains have been with the National Museum of Scotland. Since the Beothuk people have disappeared, the discussion will focus on a respectful repatriation that likely won’t even involve a traditional museum, says Mr. Lohman, who is a leading advocate of repatriating remains.

“You can’t put them on display to the public. What are you doing with them? We need to play the role of a transition station.”

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.

Around the West

GROW CALGARY: The founder of Canada’s largest community farm says the Alberta government isn’t honouring a deal reached before the provincial election to relocate the operation. The previous government evicted Grow Calgary from its previous home, citing road work, and agreed to spend $300,000 to relocate the farm and set it up in a new location. But Paul Hughes says the government is now saying it can’t spend any more money on the project owing to “fiscal restraint” and he says there are several terms in the lease that are unreasonable.

MANITOBA ELECTION: Healthcare is emerging as an early issue in Manitoba’s provincial election, as Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister fends of attacks about his government’s handling of the issue. Opponents are attacking Mr. Pallister, who called the election a year ahead of schedule, for closing emergency rooms and cutting hundreds of nurses, though he says he’s focused on being “smarter” about how money is being invested in the health system. The campaign is also starting on a nasty note, with the PCs attacking NDP Leader Wab Kinew over legal troubles in his past, while the NDP released two ads calling calling Mr. Pallister an “ass.”

RIDE HAILING: App-based transportation companies Uber and Lyft are preparing to enter the Vancouver region, which has remained one of the last major North American markets without the self-described ride-sharing services. But those U.S.-based companies, which can start applying for permits in the first week of September, have pushed back against the province’s attempt to regulate them, in particular driver-licensing requirements similar to taxis.

PIPELINES: The federal government is setting aside $6-million to help Indigenous communities participate in energy projects. Several Indigenous-led groups are preparing bids to purchase a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline.

MINIMUM WAGE: The Alberta government has appointed a panel to examine whether workers who serve alcohol – and get tips – should be paid a lower minimum wage. B.C. has a lower minimum wage for liquor-servers, though it’s in the process of phasing it out. Quebec has a lower wage for workers who receive tips.

FRAUD: The City of Saskatoon says it was bilked out of $1-million through a fraudster who pretended to be a municipal contractor.

OIL SANDS: The conglomerate run by the wealthy Koch brothers has sold its Alberta oil-sands assets to a unit of Paramount Resources Ltd. – the latest example of foreign investors getting out of the province’s energy sector.

PORT OF VANCOUVER: Vancouver’s port handled a record level of cargo in the first half of this year, though there are signs that trade uncertainty due to global economic conditions could cause that situation to deteriorate.


Dale Smith on the Alberta MLA pay cut: “It’s symbolic, a message that politicians “feel your pain,” but while it’s sold as fiscally prudent, the real cumulative impact is ultimately a drop in the bucket. And most importantly, such a move panders to the kind of populist sentiment that feeds the intoxicating myth that elected officials are fat cats, living high on the public dime, getting money for nothing.”

Kirsten Andrews on the Sea to Sky gondola: “The gondola is worth so much more than just its parts. It is the definition of community and gathering. The backdrop – easily one of the most scenic and beautiful views of anywhere in B.C. – is secondary.”

Adrienne Tanner on Vancouver’s outdoor pools: “Swimming is a fabulous, low-impact form of exercise. Canada’s demographic is aging and as it does, pools will become even more popular. As the park board moves forward, it must continue to balance the need for fiscal prudence with user satisfaction.”

Seafood: A seafood tower is the quintessential summer dish, and in Vancouver, they’re ubiquitous (not to mention expensive). But not all platters are created equal. Alexandra Gill breaks down what separates the truly great seafood towers from the tourist bait.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe