More updates soon…

by Yule Heibel on October 4, 2007

Too many things on the agenda, and a looming computer-allergy as a result: the combined effect is that I’m once again behind on my “hope to do/ blue sky” list.

One of those to-do items includes posting more of my FOCUS Magazine articles (in PDF) to the link here, just above my about page (see sidebar) . Well, October’s article about the Belleville Street Terminal “renovation” is out, and I do plan to add it later today — and also add some of the earlier months still outstanding.

Meanwhile, I sent my first-ever letter to the National Post, and it was published! Slightly abbreviated, but still. The article I responded to was by Robert Fulford, entitled To the Turnstiles! (Oct. 2) — great article that leads with the question, “Should the public pay to visit museums? It’s a question rarely asked in Canada…” Go read the whole thing. The next day, the National Post published J. Kelly Nestruck’s Price To Peep At Pepys? Pfffft!, a good follow-up.

My letter is on this page in today’s National Post, and it reads:


Museums: an invaluable part of our national fabric


National Post

Published: Thursday, October 04, 2007

I moved back to Victoria some years ago and was shocked to realize that the Royal B.C. Museum (RBCM) now charges a hefty admission fee. When I lived here as a kid 30 years ago, the museum was free, which meant that I was free to wander into its galleries regularly to indulge my interests. I didn’t need to make a “special day” of it or cajole my parents into spending money they didn’t have, and consequently, the threshold for culture was level with my day-to-day life. It wasn’t something I had difficulty crossing.

Curiously, I ended up earning a PhD in art history at Harvard. I won’t say it was because of the RBCM, but I can’t help wondering how many Canadian kids today are cut out of the experience of culture because we keep it hidden behind a turnstile. By charging admission to collections that effectively already belong to us, museums are double-dipping into the public’s purse.

Yule Heibel, Victoria.

The editor took out a couple of sentences, for the sake of brevity. Understandable, but I’ll add them here:

After the first paragraph (which ends with the word “crossing”), I wrote: “I didn’t need to rely exclusively on a peer culture for entertainment, or hang out at the mall. Unhurried, I could go to the museum, and take my time absorbing its offerings.” What I meant by that I had a free venue that was public, but in which I could be an oddball (a museum-goer, gasp!). I didn’t need to be part of a group, or herd.

After the last bit in the published letter, I added my concerns around infrastructure funding. What I wrote was this: “…museums are also double-dipping into the public’s purse. I guess this is what ‘downloading’ is all about, with Joe or Jane Public at the very bottom of that particular food chain. But as Fulford notes, maybe it’s time to call the politicians to heel and impress upon them that free admission should be the norm.”

That last bit references a key concern of mine at present: municipal infrastructure funding. Perhaps more on that later, but let me just say that I also believe that the arts are part of a society’s — and particularly a city’s — infrastructure. All municipal infrastructure needs proper funding.

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