BC Museums Association Podcast
October 28, 2021
Review By Joy Davis
One of the museum sector’s perennial challenges is sustaining a sense of community and connectivity, given that workers are widely scattered, professional expertise spans many specialist areas, needs and interests are diverse, and opportunities to gather are few, particularly when Covid restricts travel. At the same time museum specialists are challenged to keep pace with the new concepts and skills that are reshaping practice. The Podcast Series hosted by the British Columbia Museums Association (BCMA) offers an engaging way to get to know colleagues, strengthen a sense of community, and build expertise by showcasing the experiences of people who are engaged in cultural activity across the province.
Over the past three years, in almost 100 episodes that range in length from Micropodcasts of less than two minutes to interviews of up to one hour, BC museum professionals and other specialists talk about their work, their accomplishments, and the issues that concern them. Topics range from brief “You Need to Know” technical series, to profiles of museums, to conference overviews, to an engaging discussion of the cultural heritage tensions highlighted in a popular TV show. A periodic MuseNews podcast provides a synopsis of museum-related activities.
The first two episodes in the recently announced Climate Action and Leadership Series are excellent examples of ways in which BCMA podcasts address challenging issues. The Series explores multi-layered questions that weave together in contemporary museum discourse as museums recognize their obligation to work toward resilience in the face of the growing climate crisis. A powerful thread of the first podcast with Dr. Diondre Smiles, an Indigenous geographer with the University of Victoria, is ways in which Indigenous epistemologies and ways of knowing, steeped in generations of knowledge production but also focussed on the future, enable museums to move beyond inclusion to shaping meaningful approaches to climate justice. The wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Smiles makes accessible complex academic thinking about the consequences of settler colonialism on Indigenous peoples and the environment and reflects on museums’ capacity to address repatriation and environmental and cultural stewardship as critical elements in climate action.
The second Climate Action Podcast, with Lauren Ball and Chantal MacDonald who work together on the Bateman Foundation’s Value Nature Podcast Series, also focuses on ways in which museums and their communities can – and must – grapple with such hard and complex realities as the repression of Indigenous peoples and the exploitation of environmental resources. They go beyond discussing these inequities to encouraging action on multiple fronts, seeing cultural institutions as catalysts for meaningful and creative change. And they call for an evolution in museum practice to better position museums to play new roles.
Voices in the BCMA Podcast Series are passionate, thoughtful, energetic, hopeful, and caught up in the stories that they’re telling and the ideas they’re setting out. Clearly, podcasts have the advantage of being a low-cost way of sharing knowledge that provides the listener with an accessible, portable, and time-efficient way to access information on demand. And the informal, narrative approach to delivery is more intimate and engaging than reading content in a book or on a website. If there is a down-side, it is the difficulty of capturing the wealth of ideas that weave together for future reference. But the BCMA adds lists of references for study — and of course listeners can always revisit podcasts to refocus on sections that have captured their interest.
BCMA is not alone in using podcasts to explore the museum landscape. This medium has been widely adopted to both expand the reach of museums and to share the insights of museum professionals. A scan of the ‘Directory of Podcasts by Cultural Nonprofits’ (https://www.betterlemonaudio.com/nonprofitpodcasts) demonstrates the scope of this medium and also suggests that the BCMA Podcast Series could – and should — take its place alongside podcasts produced by colleagues around the world.
BC Museums Association. BC Museums Association Podcast, podcast. https://bcmapodcast.podbean.com/