Jonathan Platt Visits Vancouver

On 1 October 2015 Jonathan Platt became Head of HLF East Midlands, having previously been Lincolnshire County Council’s Libraries and Heritage Manager.  Born in Leeds, he has worked in the heritage sector in Yorkshire, East and West Midlands for 35 years, starting as a museum volunteer whilst still at school.   He has degrees in History, Industrial Archaeology, a Certificate in Management and is a Fellow of the Museums Association.  He has served on various local, regional and national boards including the Lincolnshire Senior Cultural Officers Group, East Midlands Museums Service, MLA East Midlands, Renaissance East Midlands and the Museums Association.

About the Museum of Vancouver, Canada

Jonathan’s study focus was on the Museum of Vancouver (MOV), which is the City’s museum, founded in 1893 which has been housed in a spectacular building in the 17 acre Vanier Park along with the MacMillan Space Centre since 1967.   The city owns and maintains the building and its archaeological, natural history and first nations collections, but they are operated by a not for profit trust with a turnover of $2m or £1m per annum.  The museum’s four exhibitions are all on one floor, with offices storage and education spaces below.   In 2014 the museum had over 64,000 paying visitors, 49 staff and 173 volunteers.

Jonathan met and interviewed Nancy Noble Chief Executive Officer of the museum and President of the Canadian Museums Association.  Nancy joined the museum in 2005 and has since led the museums renaissance which included a period of public consultation and a new vision, brand and purpose from 2007:

Mission: To hold a mirror to the city and lead provocative conversations about its past, present and future.

Strapline: MOV for the bold. Fun. Curious.

Vision: The Museum of Vancouver inspires inquiry into the city. As an urban museum, it interprets, presents, and archives the continuous transformation of Vancouver. The Museum congregates a community of the curious who come to engage with ideas and each other in dynamic conversations about what was, is, and can be Vancouver. We want to provoke, engage, and animate.

Our Values:

  • Integrity and Excellence

  • Community Engagement

  • Dialogue and Debate

  • Promotion of Intercultural Understanding

  • Passionate Advocacy for Vancouver

Jonathan was impressed by this refocus and its execution in exhibitions such as Neon Vancouver, Ugly Vancouver,  Cesn?aem – City before the City and the museum’s latest and largest temporary exhibition The Happy Show.  The latter was prompted by research which showed that lots of Vancouverites are socially disconnected and unhappy, with lots of isolated immigrant communities living in high rise buildings.  According to Nancy “Vancouver is an edgy place, so it was felt to be in keeping with the city, and a new ethos of the museum.”  The content was challenging, sex, drugs and rock and roll, but creatively presented and Jonathan felt that few museums and governing bodies would be willing to mount such an exhibition.  However, such bold programming and other community engagement initiatives were increasing the museum’s income and turning around the museum’s visitor profile, which still tended to be well educated, but was becoming younger (more 25-50 year olds), more diverse and representative of the local population.  He felt that this all boded well for the future of the museum.   However, he was surprised by the lack of a shop, café and public transport to the museum, and the other attractions in Vanier Park, including the Maritime Museum, City Archives and Academy of Music each of which had different governing bodies.  He concluded that for the mission to really take off the museum spaceship needed to move downtown.