The Royal British Columbia Museum is under investigation for months after the former head of the Department of Collections and Indigenous Repatriation resigned in July, citing a culture of racism and discrimination.
CEO of the Royal B.C. Museum Victoria (RBCM) announced to staff on Tuesday that he would be stepping down, two months after a diversity and inclusion consultant called the institution a dysfunctional and toxic place of work characterized by a culture of fear and mistrust.
Jack Lohman, who was appointed CEO in 2012, emailed staff that the museum needed new energy and fresh leadership. He said his resignation was a joint decision with the museum board. The museum said in a statement that the board of directors and Lohman discussed how to deal with current internal problems and agreed that his departure would be in the best interests of the organization. Its last day is February 12th.
Board Chairman Dan Muzyka will serve as CEO until the Royal British Columbia Museum hires a replacement for Lohman. In an email, Lohman wrote that it would be difficult for him to walk out the door as he cares so much about the museum and how to make it better forever. And his enthusiasm for the job and numerous calls for greater social responsibility have never been stronger.
The B.C Museum Victoria is under investigation for months after the former head of the Department of Collections and Indigenous Repatriation resigned in July, citing a culture of racism and discrimination.
In her farewell speech on July 24, Lucy Bell, a member of the Haida Nation, addressed colleagues and leaders, listing examples of racist comments directed at her during her time at the museum. She said her experiences reflected both systemic racism and racism at the individual level.
In her speech, she wrote that it is also direct discrimination, white privilege, bullying and micro-aggression that occurs here every day. Bell said news of Lohman’s resignation was bittersweet.
In her email, she said that she was sad that it had come to this. She has watched the Royal British Columbia Museum board being cautious and thoughtful, and she knows that they have taken her concerns seriously and that their recent decisions must have been difficult to make. She added that she hoped to see positive changes in the area of museums and heritage.
Bell, one of the founders of the Haida Heritage and Repatriation Society in Haida Gwaii, said that when she started working at the museum, she thought she would bring positive change for indigenous peoples. She has coordinated the repatriation of over 500 Haida ancestors from museums around the world.
Bell said she thought she would leave a different legacy. If she is known for this particular job at Roya British Columbia Museum, so be it.
In response to Bell’s concerns in July, the museum hosted the B.C. Museum Victoria
. The civil service agency is hiring diversity and inclusiveness consultant Alden Habakon, who conducted a survey of staff and volunteers in September, focusing on inclusiveness, mental health, and safety.
In early December, an analysis of 221 responses was presented to staff, representing about 73 percent of staff and 14 percent of volunteers.
In the slides shown to staff and viewed by The Times Colonist, two themes were identified. They are poor leadership and management, and individual and structural discrimination and symbolism. Sixty-four comments indicate employees were bullied and mistreated by management, and 18 responses called Loman an ineffective, indifferent, and elitist leader. Thirty-six people also indicated that they did not trust management or human resources.
In the survey, 65 people said they viewed the museum as a racist, anti-indigenous and colonial space, and 28 people called it a sexist space for women.
One slide says that discrimination and a lack of support for marginalized groups make the Royal British Columbia Museum and its cultural efforts seem inauthentic.
Stephanie Smith, President of B.C. Museum Victoria the union of civil servants and employees said the union supports its members in the fight for a workplace free of discrimination. She said that they truly hope that these changes in senior management will lead to the changes that our members called for, namely a safe, healthy, and inclusive workplace.
Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sports, said in a statement that the Royal British Columbia Museum was working to modernize its work culture and make it a safe and open place to work.
To combat racism and discrimination in the museum, he is reorganizing the executive structure, improving the process of reporting harassment and discrimination, and introducing new training programs aimed at building trust.
The Royal British Columbia Museum will provide additional resources for the Indigenous Collections and Repatriation Department, including several new positions, Muzyka said in late January.
In January, The Royal British Columbia Museum staff was briefed on the departure of Joan Orr, Deputy CEO and VP of Collections, Research, and International Programs, and Erica Wheeler, Head of Collections Conservation and Conservation, although Muzyka did not say at the time they were associated with an ongoing investigation or survey results.