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Inclusivity Report: Reconciliation and Diversity at the WDM

Museums, Libraries, Archives
Saskatchewan

Since 2016 Saskatchewan’s Western Development Museum has been going through a renewal process – including a look at how the museum could better engage with Reconciliation.

For Elizabeth Scott, the curator, the timing was perfect. The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action had been released and the museum started looking at growth.

“All the pieces speak to the kind of museum we want to see in the 21st century,” Scott said.

“We want to share and showcase voices that have not had space in the museum previously.”

The conversations led to the creation of the 50-page document, Inclusivity Report: Reconciliation and Diversity at the WDM. It looks at the Calls to Action, narratives and exhibits at four museums, their collections and makes seven recommendations for action. They are ambitious and will take time, said Scott.

“We have a lot of undoing to do before we can start the doing,” she said.

The teams have already started. In the Yorkton museum, a photo collage was taken down because it had outdated language and the museum wants to be able to provide more information and work with communities to find out who is in the photos. The goal is to remove something outdated because we don’t want to perpetuate a narrative of Indigenous people trapped in the past, Scott said.

“We want to make sure the Indigenous voices who we need to hear from are who it’s coming from.”

They are also working on themselves. Staff are attending blanket exercises, and those who want further training are supported in that, Scott said.

It’s a slow shift, she said, but the team is making it the new priority.

It’s an important move for the Western Development Museum because people who arrive at the museums are craving good, trustworthy historical information, Scott said.

“It’s helping people be able to honour their families and their own histories, but understand in a deeper way how it all happened.”

As they go through the process, Scott says they are learning a lot. One of the biggest pieces she recommends for organizations starting their own Reconciliation journey is the importance of connecting with Indigenous people and communities to learn from them.

“If you don’t know, ask,” she said. “It’s okay not to know.”

As business and intuitions start the journey they need to look at the calls to action and figure out what fits the work that you do, Scott said.

In the Western Development Museum’s case, they have found the specific calls that relate to them and expanded those calls to fit the work that a provincial human history museum should be doing.

“Museums can’t save the world but we can help try and build some empathy, and provide multiple perspectives on the past. There’s no one past, there is no one story.”

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