Guest opinion by Rosemary Curley
With the P.E.I. Legislature now closed, there was an important topic raised which seems to have gone relatively unnoticed by the media, and it needs recognition. Decades have passed since the Legislative Assembly created the organization charged with museum responsibility, yet major areas of the provincial museum mandate like natural history have gone unaddressed. It was the watchful eye of Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker who noticed this and brought forward a statement to the Assembly on November 26th.
“With the commitment of the new federal government to spend billions of dollars on social infrastructure, now might be a wonderful time for Islanders to begin to dream again about a project long discussed and advocated: and that is, the construction of a new Provincial Museum of Human and Natural History, a state-of-the-art institution to showcase and highlight the rich legacy, and promise, of our Island province. I foresee — I dream about — a must-visit facility for every Island school student, citizen and visitor.
“The Premier talks often about that very precious inheritance of Islanders, the Gift of Jurisdiction. In my opinion, that “Gift” is rather hollow — indeed, at risk — unless pains are taken, with each new generation, to shore up and reinforce Islanders’ sense of history and identity. Also, we need to continue to learn from our past – in particular, how human beings have affected the often fragile environment of this place, and vice versa. Thus we can equip ourselves to face the future with a higher consciousness, and a greater wisdom . . .
“In 1970, a visionary Island Government of the day took the bold step of establishing the Prince Edward Island Heritage Foundation. In 1983, the Museum Act changed the name of the organization, added a natural history mandate, and underlined the institution’s status as the Island’s “provincial museum” Now, almost half a century later, let us be bold to finish the job and build a lovely and imaginative new facility which will be the pride of Islanders.”
Kudos to Dr. Bevan-Baker for recognizing this golden opportunity to develop a museum that tells the full story of this province, its distant geological past, its rich paleontological treasures buried deep within, and all life forms that call it home. Nature P.E.I. shares this vision of a museum with programs that help all Islanders and visitors understand the significance of both natural and human heritage.
We implore the Government of P.E.I. to move ahead now that there is an interest at the federal level in funding joint projects that serve the needs of Canadians in the area of social infrastructure.
Rosemary Curley, is a biologist who serves as president of Nature P.E.I.: The Natural History Society of Prince Edward Island.