Totems and Teapots: The Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation

Faculty Author Type

Emeritus Faculty [Robert K. Paterson]

Published In

University of British Columbia Law Review

Document Type


Publication Date



museums; deaccessioning; cultural material


Recent years have seen increased turbulence surrounding the normally placid lives of museums. Many institutions confront difficult financial challenges in the face of dwindling attendance and declining government grants. While the acquisition and display of objects remain major priorities for most museums, many now also seek to redefine and examine their role in relation to their client communities and constituencies. These pressures and changes have sometimes been reflected in debates surrounding controversial exhibitions and have been accompanied by increasing numbers of claims for the return of objects by indigenous peoples, victims of Holocaust-era confiscations, and others. This paper looks at British Columbia’s Museum Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 12, and how it relates to museum codes of ethics, as well as deaccessioning, and the return of First Nations cultural material.