A replica of a Peace River homestead is among the exhibits being dismantled at the Royal B.C. Museum this year as part of its push to “decolonize” the institution.

The exhibit sits on the third floor of the museum, and was modelled after pioneer Hector Tremblay’s farm in Pouce Coupe in the early 1900s. Tremblay was one of the first, if not the first, to try agriculture in the region, and the replica was built more than 40 years ago by the Royal B.C. Museum based on a pencil sketch of his homestead.

Joe Tremblay, current president of the Pouce Coupe Museum and the grandson of Hector Tremblay, is disappointed the display is being closed and taken down.

“You can’t have a museum that only depicts the points in history that a certain group of people want to depict, history is history. And the museum showcases all the different peoples history, and encompasses a lot of different points of view,” said Tremblay. “You can’t, in my opinion I should say, cancel that.”

The Pouce Coupe Museum may not have the space to repatriate the replica, but Tremblay says members are interested in preserving it, and suggested photographs could be used to create its own mural exhibit.

“There’s lot of pictures and lots of coverage on it in their own records,” said Tremblay. “They’ve got lots of things that have been done that we could take copies of and blow them up into a big display that physically doesn’t have the display, but at least has everything that’s there in a mural kind of sense.”

“It’s not carved in stone by any means, but I just know it’s beyond our abilities to take the whole thing.”

The entire third floor of the Royal B.C. Museum was closed at the end of 2021 as part of what it described as a “decolonization” of its exhibits and as part of reconciliation with First Nations.

In a recent editorial, Melanie Mark, B.C.’s minister for tourism and culture, says many of the museum’s facilities are also “at the end of their useful life” and that a new and modern museum is long overdue.

“We must take action now,” Mark wrote in an op-ed in the Victoria Times-Colonist. “A new and modern museum is long overdue, for the safety of all visitors, to remove barriers so everyone can access it and to keep our irreplaceable ­collections safe. Continuing on without a major redevelopment is not an option for anyone serious about the stewardship of B.C.’s history and culture.”

Other exhibits slated to be taken down include the the Old Town replica as well as dioramas of a salmon cannery, a Vancouver Island coal mine, and HMS Discovery, the flagship of British explorer George Vancouver.

It’s uncertain what the future of the Tremblay homestead might be or if it’ll return in a future exhibit, but Royal B.C. Museum spokesperson Samantha Rich says all third floor exhibits are being returned to collections for now, and that it has yet to reach out to museums in the Peace.

“All of the artifacts within the exhibitions on the third floor are being carefully returned to collections and undergoing conservation treatments where necessary,” said Rich. “Many of these artifacts will return in future galleries.”

In Dawson Creek, the South Peace Historical Archives says it’s interested in Royal B.C. Museum materials related to the Peace River area, and is keen to know what the museum can offer on Tremblay from their archives.

“I know it’s a replica and we don’t really want that, but they probably have a lot of information that we don’t have. Even picture-wise we don’t have much on the Tremblay family at that time,” said long-time volunteer archivist Lynn Washington.

“I don’t know how much they have in their archives, but you’ve got to think that in early years a lot of things went directly to the archives, nobody was keeping it in a home. And that’s why I’m surprised. I knew they were changing and getting rid of that, but I didn’t know that was one to go.”

The North Peace Museum in Fort St. John is aware of the sweeping changes at the Royal B.C. Museum, but says it hasn’t been offered anything.

“I understand that a lot people have treasured those exhibits, and in that way it’s sad it’s changing, but museums are always evolving and trying to be more inclusive and representative of the communities they serve,” said curator Heather Sjoblom.

The Royal B.C. Museum says a team of dedicated conservationists will be handling the more delicate items such as paper and textiles to save what they can while carefully disassembling the displays, which may contain hazardous building materials.

“In terms of the staging and displays, we are also saving what we can, however some of the original constructs of exhibitions on the third floor were not made using building materials that meet today’s standards,” Rich said.