Unsettling the Classification of Nature, Culture and History

Caitlin Gordon-Walker


Abstract: This paper examines the implications of the categorical separation between Nature, Culture and History that is common in Western museums. It focuses on the Royal British Columbia Museum’s (RBCM) configuration of galleries, which separates, first, the human from the natural world, and, second, First Peoples from modern history. With the basic structure of its galleries remaining largely unchanged since the 1970s, but with significant alterations and additions, the RBCM is a palimpsest whose layers can be read in relation to the changing sociopolitical contexts and hegemonic ideals through which British Columbia has been imagined and represented. Its division of Nature, Culture and History represents a perspective entangled with European colonialism and thus reproduces colonial relations of authority, regardless of the intentions of those working within the institution. At the same time, it offers opportunities for contesting colonial legacies and rethinking what these categories might mean.


colonialism; decolonization; nature; Indigenous culture; Canadian history

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.29311/mas.v17i2.2760

Copyright (c) 2019 Caitlin Gordon-Walker

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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