Aidan Ware, Gallery Director | April 28, 2017
The Canadian Museums Association’s recent conference Game Changer made me think about the role of art galleries and museums in Canada, as our cultural, social, political, and even historical contexts shift and reshape in response to increasing diversity and social movements for justice and cultural reconciliation.
Sarah Parcak spoke at length about the tremendous, daily, and worldwide loss of cultural artefacts due to looters and the impact of museums collecting stolen items. She is a “Space Archaeologist” and uses open source Google Map satellite imagery to identify historical architectural sites and has successfully found 17 pyramids, 3100 forgotten settlements, and more than 1000 lost tombs. She launched an online mapping platform called GlobalXplorer in a bid to involve the public in helping to protect cultural heritage from loss and with it, our human story.
Senator Murray Sinclair, former Chair of the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission, delivered a powerful address in which he described indigenous survivor stories. In one case he described a mother whose five-year-old daughter had been taken away and placed in a school, forbidden to speak her language, pray, or ever talk to her family again. The devastated mother moved her teepee as close to the school as she could in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the daughter she would never see grow up. At the end of his talk Senator Sinclair, after a long pause, said it was our duty and obligation to accept the truth, to tell the story, and to begin the work of reconciliation.
It was these two speakers who continued to resonate as the conference faded and work flurried back. Somewhere amid both those descriptions of loss, there was optimism for collective gain. Galleries and museums as trusted public authorities that hold and preserve histories, present artefacts, and position new ideas, need to be leaders in the search for hope, the delivery of truth, and in the sharing of knowledge. So while changing the game may be a trendy thing to do, it seems to me that in fact, we need to change our perspective. Because it’s really not so much about finding the next new thing, as it is about remembering our role as the changer, not the gamer.
Aidan Ware, Gallery Director