Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

History Wars

Feb 7, 2016

For several years the North Vancouver Museum has been involved in planning a relocation from its present decrepit digs to a repurposed heritage building in the historic Shipbuilders' Square on the city's waterfront. New interactive exhibits have been designed and a successful fund-raising campaign has been going on. Until two weeks ago, that is, when City Council pulled the rug out and decided in a vote of 4-3 to kill the project.

Councillors gave different reasons for nixing the new museum but the actual reason seems to be that they want the revitalized Shipyards to feature revenue-generating activities -- like the ghastly ferris wheel the mayor favoured until it was abandoned as too costly -- rather than a public amenity such as a museum.

There has been a lot of criticism of council's decision (for example) all of which, as a member of the Friends of the Museum and a former member of the commission which administers the facility, I agree with. Some councillors apparently think a local museum is not important enough to rate a prominent location in an historic district, a view which is incredibly short-sighted and unimaginative.

What especially puzzles me is that the main opponent of the relocation, Councillor Craig Keating, is himself an historian -- he is an instructor in the history department at Langara College -- as well as the president of the provincial NDP. I would have thought that a social progressive, and an historian to boot, would support local history. But it turns out that it is Keating and his left-leaning colleagues on council who sabotaged the new museum, while the more centrist and right-wing councillors fought for the new building.

It is possible that public pressure will cause City Council to revisit their decision. I hope so.