British Columbia Museums Association:

A Concise History

In 1957, a seminar at the University of BC brought together representatives of BC’s cultural institutions, a steering committee was formed and, thereafter, a constitution was approved and officers elected to form the BC Museums Association (BCMA) in September 1959. The purpose of the Society was to “ensure the preservation and interpretation of, access to, and appreciation of, human history, artistic endeavour and natural heritage within British Columbia” by providing a range of services to its membership. In 1960, the Museums Round Up newsletter was born and BCMA’s first Annual General Meeting was held in Penticton, BC.

During this period, the number of museums and galleries increased dramatically in BC, as in other parts of Canada. By 1964, there were 47 museums in the Province represented by the BCMA.

In the early days of its inception, the BCMA held regular seminars on basic museum management, advocated on behalf of its membership, published a quarterly newsletter, and fundraised. The Provincial Museum, BC Archives & Records, University of BC, and the Leon and Thea Koerner Foundation provided financial assistance.

Although training seminars were regularly available, there was a need to disseminate these offerings across the province. The BCMA proposed the establishment of a Museum Advisor who could travel the province and provide information and assistance to smaller museums. This position was confirmed in 1967 and, in conjunction with training courses, was responsible for tremendous improvement in all aspects of museum work throughout the Province.

By 1981, the Society had evolved from a volunteer run organization to one with a full-time provincial office consisting of an executive director, training coordinator and secretary. That year, the BCMA set up office in Victoria, BC. An elected Council of 10 members was responsible for developing and reviewing policies, formulating positions on issues effecting museums and galleries, authorizing fundraising ventures, financial expenditures, and program development. Special interest groups and committees were then formed and the BCMA gained a voice for museums at government levels. The BCMA membership worked determinedly and enthusiastically to advocate to major financial partners, particularly senior levels of government, and to earn respect and involvement in decision making.

In 2000, eight standing committees operated in close co-operation with Council: the Training Advisory and Review Committee; the Dogwood Advisory Committee; the Membership Development Committee; the Awards Committee; the Hardcastle Bursary Committee; the Nominating Committee; the Publications Committee and the Personnel Committee.

In 2006 the Association grew to represent over 380 museums, art galleries, historical sites and affiliate members in the province. Through the supporting efforts of the BCMA, museums and art galleries became vital, exciting places with expanding collections, innovative exhibitry and imaginative public programming. Jim Harding was the executive director.

In 2011, BCMA started its Facebook page.

In 2013 a significant shift in approach and strategy was undertaken by Council to reinvigorate the Association, making it more relevant to the changing needs of museums and related institutions as well as individuals in the field. The website was redesigned and new, relevant content was added. On 14 March 2013 the BCMA started its Twitter account. John Grimes was hired as an interim executive director in the summer and the offices were moved from Bastion Square to the Royal BC Museum in the fall.

In January 2014, Theresa Mackay was hired as executive director when membership stood at 380, ranging from the world famous Royal BC Museum through to the multitude of small volunteer staffed community facilities across the province. The BCMA started its own YouTube channel in May and a LinkedIn account in the fall. Today the emphasis is on reinvigorating, reimagining and reinventing the BCMA. At the same time it is firmly positioning museums, galleries and related institutions, such as archives and heritage sites, as organizations which make a significant impact on the cultural life of our province and the economic well-being of the region and country. Membership is growing, along with the focus on providing top-level sector training.