Provincial museum promises remain unfulfilled

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Letter of the Day by Ian Scott

Editor: Recent statements by both the Board of Governors of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation and by readers of this paper (Heritage Blues Back on Agenda by Andy Robb on Dec. 2) show the growing frustration from many quarters with museum development policy. The province has indicated both while in opposition, on the campaign trail and since forming government of the importance on moving ahead with provincial museum development —yet little tangible evidence of a clear plan exists years later. While five-year capital priority plans are updated to outline planning in other areas, the needs of our provincial museum continue to be avoided.

A provincial museum mandate was granted “to study, collect, preserve, interpret, and protect the human and natural history of Prince Edward Island for the use, benefit and enjoyment of the people of the province” by the legislature in 1983. Since then, many aspects of this mandate have not been fulfilled. Perhaps most evident is the lack of staff and resources to fulfil the natural history mandate. Every year the legislative assembly receives an annual report from the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation on progress in fulfilling this important mandate. Each year the report is adopted by the assembly as a matter of course, despite the fact that many of the activities mandated by the Museum Act could not be fulfilled.

Even without the ability to study, collect, preserve, interpret, and protect the human and natural history of our province, the need for these roles continues to increase with each passing year. Increasingly biodiversity grows as an important topic, as we see many species facing a variety of pressures. The spread of foreign invasive species and new diseases present challenges when we lack the basic science about the flora and fauna of our own province to know what species already exist here. It is not uncommon for researchers to discover species that have likely existed for centuries yet have never been recorded simply because of the lack of research in many areas of local biology. Complex environmental decisions are based on scientific data yet without basic data on many aspects of Island ecology these decisions are made without a complete understanding of their impact.

To grant a mandate without appropriate funding of the organization charged with fulfilling the mandate can only lead to frustration for staff and board members faced with the impossibly of moving forward. Museum development requires a clear, well-thought-out plan. It is only appropriate that government works with the Board of Governors of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation, to ensure that a workable plan is in place.

Nature P.E.I. involves members from across the Island with an interest in natural history and is prepared to assist both parties in moving ahead with this planning process. Sitting on the fence is not a viable position when it is time for action in living up to promises that have been made. The time has come to address the real needs of our provincial museum system; there is a compelling story to be told and all Islanders deserve a chance to hear that story.  

Ian Scott,

President,

Nature P.E.I.: The Natural History Society of Prince Edward Island

Organizations: Heritage Foundation, Board of Governors of the P.E.I. Museum

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island

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