Ecomuseums continue to be a major focus my work here at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, both as chair of the Saskatchewan Ecomuseums Initiative (SEI) Steering Committee and as a researcher interested in sustainability education. As I noted in an earlier blog, ecomuseums are locally-driven, place-based organizations that encourage sustainable community development, based on heritage conservation and interpretation. I’m happy to report that a lot been happening on this front at the provincial level, and in a number of communities.
Torch River Forest.
At the provincial level, the SEI Steering Committee met three times over the summer, reviewing its guiding principles and discussing ways to build momentum in this area. We also invited Charles Pratt from Raven Consortium to join the group and are very excited to have him at the table since he brings a First Nations perspective and is really plugged into that community.
Some other provincial highlights:
- Ecomuseums are a central theme in the latest issue of Museums and Sustainability from the Museums Association of Saskatchewan. This issue looks at the social aspects of sustainability and includes descriptions of Val Marie and Nipawin as ecomuseum demonstration sites.
- In May, the ecomuseum model was featured as part of a Higher Education Symposium on “living laboratories” that took place at Government House, through the Saskatchewan Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. People from Val Marie, Nipawin, and North Central Regina spoke about their work, and many opportunities for collaboration were identified.
- Sandra Massey has written an excellent article about ecomuseums and living heritage. Watch for it in Engage (via SaskCulture) and in local newspapers.
Torch River Forest mushroom pickers.
Here’s what some communities have been up to:
- The Val Marie ecomuseum started in 2012, with a reorientation and rebranding of their local community museum. Their initial focus was on revamping some exhibit space and they’re now aiming to do more strategic planning and have started an Artist-in-Residence program.
- The Nipawin/Twin Lakes ecomuseum is a collaborative project sparked by concerns around clear-cutting in the Torch River Forest, between Friends of the Torch River Forest and local municipal and regional planners. They have been developing their management structure and identifying their initial vision and outcomes, starting with the Torch River Forest.
- In February, Jan Morier and I worked with the University of Regina Community Research Unit to collect information about key issues and needs in North Central Regina and how an ecomuseum might affect quality of life in the area. Jan has also drawn attention to the ecomuseum idea by putting an article about it in their community newsletter.
- In June, the Katepwa/Calling Lakes region was one of several identified as a potential ecomuseum during a two-day tour of heritage assets organized by Heritage Canada The National Trust. A group from the region has decided to move in this direction and students from the U of R (Luther College) will be doing projects there this fall, as part of a 200-level course called Ecomuseums: Exploring Place.
- Other communities that have been talking about the ecomuseum model include Wolseley, through their museum board, and Moose Jaw, through the Wakamow Valley Authority.
Mushrooms in the Torch River Forest.
This is just the beginning; there are more exciting developments on the horizon! As momentum builds and this work moves ahead, the RSM will be playing an advisory role that involves gauging interest in ecomuseums, building local capacity, and providing consultations. So don’t hesitate to contact me if you want more information about the ecomuseum model.