Response to the TRC’s Calls to Action

The Provincial Museum was founded in 1886 to preserve, classify, exhibit and keep for British Columbia the cultural objects of First Nations and natural history. This is still part of the Royal BC Museum’s mandate 130 years later—but in a very different way. Collaborations that began in the 1950s led to increasing First Nations presence in the museum and stronger links between communities and collections. Since the 1970s, formal partnerships have become the norm. Most recently, the museum partnered with First Peoples’ Cultural Council to produce the award-winning exhibition Our Living Languages. We are working to improve access to museum and archival collections, and to ensure our practices are compatible with First Nations ways of knowing.

In 2017 a new First Nations department was created, incorporating the anthropology and archaeology collections. In addition to continuing the important work that collections staff have undertaken for decades, the department is responsible for the repatriation of ancestral remains, sacred cultural objects, and intangible cultural heritage to Indigenous communities. To read more about their work, see First Nations.

In line with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission we are further revitalizing our policies and responsive practices. The following represent some of the ways in which other departments at the Royal BC Museum and Archives are heeding the Calls to Action and embracing the spirit of reconciliation.

View 2016 Report

Collections and Access

The BC Archives are working to provide digital copies of records to Indigenous families and communities that have a connection to the material. A recent example includes an 1887 government file describing in detail early settler-Indigenous conflict in the East Kootenays. The scanned file has been provided to the Ktunaxa Nation Council.

On March 27, 2018 two collections from the Royal BC Museum—the Vancouver Island Treaties and the Ida Halpern fonds—were accepted for inscription on the Canadian Commission for UNESCO's Canada Memory of the World register. Highly valued by Indigenous communities, inscription on the register is a recognition of the significance of these records.

The development of new field practices by Royal BC Museum scientists requires a notification of activity to First Nations in territories where summer collecting trips are planned. In addition to the notification, Royal BC Museum scientists offer to collect duplicate samples that can be deposited with First Nations who have an interest in developing natural history collections. To date, duplicate collections of botanical material have been donated to the Kelly Lake First Nation and to Treaty 8.

Education and Learning

The BC Archives includes a number of guides to assist researchers studying particular subject areas. They are in the process of creating a reference guide dedicated to helping those researching the history of Residential Schools in British Columbia. It will be added to the BC Archives reference guide page in late 2018.

The Indian Residential Schools Program, which ran in Canada from roughly 1880 to 1996, is a tragedy in Canadian history. This Learning Portal pathway is about those residential schools that were established by the Canadian Government specifically for Indigenous children. 

The Royal BC Museum offers a wide variety of school programs aimed at increasing awareness of First Nations, Metis and Inuit cultures and histories. These programs include the EAGLE Program, Learning Labs, Partner School Project and the Home Learners Workshop series.

Language Revitalization

The Royal BC Museum and Archives is prioritizing materials with Indigenous content for digitization. The focus is on digitizing linguistic tapes in order to support language revitalization programs within communities. Additionally, the museum’s collection of 25,000+ photographs, mostly early images of communities, will be scanned as part of a multi-year digitization project.

The BC Archives is reviewing their description standards and consulting with archival institutions across North America to create a plan to incorporate traditional knowledge, community restrictions and Indigenous language diacritics into their catalogue entries.

In 2017 the Royal BC Museum and Archives were gifted with translations of three of the original Vancouver Island Treaties. Two of the treaties were translated into Lekwungen and one into SENĆOŦEN. These translations are available online and provided whenever researchers ask to view the English-language versions, encouraging users to consider the different versions and languages involved at their time of creation.

Partnerships and Collaborations

As part of their outreach activities, the BC Archives invited Indigenous communities to come to the archives and research their genealogy and community history. The BC Archives’ collaboration with Dr. Evan Adams of the First Nations Health Authority highlights the challenges and the joys of conducting such research

The BC Archives recently sent staff to meet with Indigenous communities and cultural associations and present on how to access the archival collections. This meeting was the start of a longer collaboration surrounding our collections and the ways in which Indigenous materials are represented and accessed in the archives.

The Royal BC Museum and Archives is preparing an exhibition highlighting the work of colonial photographer Frederick Dally. In collaboration with the First Nations and Repatriation department, the human history and art curators will consult with the Nations represented in the photographs for their input on how their communities will be represented and interpreted.


The Royal BC Museum and Archives has established a program to provide Indigenous communities and individuals with reproductions of records documenting their cultural heritage free-of-charge.  Researchers who self-identify as Indigenous can access copies of photographs, textual records, sound recordings, and other items from the collections.

The Royal BC Museum's Conservation department participates in repatriation requests, including the transfer of a number of wooden carvings and baskets to the Huu-ay-aht First Nation in November, 2016.  Practical assistance such as cleaning, packing and transporting was supplied at the request of the First Nation.  Cooperation and partnership takes place in facilitating the return of objects to the community.

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