The Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum hopes to encourage others to join them in their stance against wilful cultural destruction and has removed its community’s treasures from exhibit, at least in one display case.
These items have been replaced with a simple message:
Imagine if all our display cases – like this one – were empty As proud custodians of the history and heritage of our City, County, and Maskwacis Cree Nations, the Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum is heartbroken by the wilful destructions in Mosul of their Museum, as well as their Central and University Libraries, and of cultural heritage sites in Iraq and around the world.
This imitates a similar display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
“Cultural and historic heritage belongs to all of us.”
The Heritage Museum’s goal is to bring awareness to their community about the destruction of cultural heritage and the global importance of preserving it. They also hope to encourage dialogue about the value of cultural diversity and its significance for a collective identity.
Museum Manager Karen Aberle, who holds a PhD in Classical Archaeology from the Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies at UBC believes that “this is not an issue only for world leaders, academics, or directors of large institutions to ponder, debate, and react to. Cultural and historical heritage belongs to all of us. It is the tangible evidence of our collective identity and we must all take responsibility for ensuring its preservation.”
She further cites a recent article published by the Wall Street Journal, where Professor Adam T. Smith of Cornell University wrote: “The most powerful rebuke to those who would force us to forget the past, is to redouble our commitment to remembering”. The question remains, but what can we do?”
What can we do?
The mission of the Heritage Museum is to “provide for the exhibition and preservation of artefacts in order to unite with the local community through history, culture, events, and education”.
While this normally focuses on the immediate region of Central Alberta, the museum board and staff feel that it is time to stand in unity with heritage preservers around the globe.
In the upcoming days, staff and volunteers will begin a new project curating an information panel on the Neo-Assyrian Empire and the rich artistic and archaeological legacy that it has provided us. They will then periodically change this display to feature other at-risk monuments, museums, and sites at home and abroad. They encourage all museums and heritage institutions, regardless of size or focus, to celebrate the threatened heritage of our world by similarly dedicating a small portion of their exhibition space.
What can you do?
The museum personally invites their community to visit and discuss these issues with them. Dr. Aberle will also volunteer to visit schools, community groups, and businesses alike that are interested in learning more about at-risk heritage sites and discussing the value of cultural diversity. She further challenges each of us to discover what we can do in our own community.
March 9, 2015