Kelvin Browne returns to museum that ignited his passion

When a former Penticton resident was growing up the museum was a place for friendly discourse and enlightening conversations.

When a former Penticton resident was growing up the museum was a place for friendly discourse and enlightening conversations.

Kelvin Browne, executive director and CEO of the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, will relate some of those early experiences as one of the keynote speakers at the B.C. Museums Association’s annual general meeting and conference Oct. 22 to 25 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort and the Shatford Centre.

The theme for this year’s event is The Third Space: Re-imagining our cultural landscape.

“It’s the idea that, between home and work, there’s this other place,” said Browne. “The examples are from a cafe to a bowling alley, to a library or museum, or park even.”

The event will consider the third space in contemporary Canadian society, where cultural institutions such as museums, galleries, heritage sites, and cultural centres live separate from, but are reflective of, the spaces of work and home.

Browne described these spaces as locations that bring people together, and allow them to interact in a way where there’s not a lot of hierarchy or assumptions about thoughts or ideas.

He recalled how a former co-worker referred to the third space: “He thought there should be a safe venue that people can discuss all matter of things, and that the museum’s responsibility was to ensure that all sides of an argument got presented — particularly when it was very provocative.”

In a museum, this type of open-minded discourse can be found in a variety of ways.

“I’m going to talk about the different ways people talk about the third space,” he said, adding he’ll also discuss the Gardiner Museum, and how it relates to this concept and how the Internet, for many, has cultivated a third space.

“I”m also going to talk a little about growing up in Penticton,” said Browne, who lived in the city until age 14. “I spent a lot of time when I was in Grade 6, 7, and 8 at what became the Penticton Art Gallery.”

While Browne was there, he connected with a couple local artists, spent time with them and became involved with the art gallery, when it was located in an area of the Penticton library.

“I wasn’t a kid that fit in particularly well in Penticton,” he said. “I was artistic. It was the only place I went where my interests weren’t kind of funny. They were kind of shared. It didn’t occur to me that these were people quite a bit older than me, because we all had something in common.

“It was a really good outlet for me but it was also that time when you start to see yourself working as an adult or being an adult, and these interests were bridging age in a way that didn’t seem to be there.”

Prior to joining the museum, Browne was a vice-president at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).

“I think my past life at the ROM really got me thinking about the museum as the third space, a place where diverse communities could feel comfortable, and where controversial topics could find a neutral place of discussion,” he said.

In addition to professional-level discussion of the industry’s trends and challenges, there will be an exploration of the South Okanagan, and a recognition of the institutions and individuals who have exemplified excellence in creativity, community engagement, and innovation.

Non-members of the association are also welcomed. For more information, and to register, visit www.museumsassn.bc.ca.

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