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Learn about Indigenous languages at the New West museum

Spotlight on: New Westminster Museum
Our Living Languages: First People's Voices in BC, a travelling exhibition from the Royal BC Museum, is visiting the New Westminster Museum until July 29.

What’s happening?

Indigenous languages are featured in a new travelling exhibition at the New Westminster Museum in Anvil Centre.

You might find yourself expanding your vocabulary – and your appreciation for the state of Indigenous languages spoken in B.C. – after visiting the museum to view the Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in BC travelling exhibition. It’s running until July 29.

What’s it about?

Visitors can learn what First Nations communities throughout the province are doing to help 34 different languages survive and flourish. The museum states that Our Living Languages is a beautifully designed exhibition from the Royal B.C. Museum and First Peoples’ Cultural Council that celebrates the resilience and diversity of Indigenous languages in the face of change.

"With the recent naming announcement of a new school in our city, our community is becoming increasingly aware of the living Indigenous relationships attached to the land we now call New Westminster," said Rob McCullough, the city’s museums and heritage services manager. "This exhibition helps provide context to these names by presenting the distinct identities of our First Nations neighbours relative to the lands on which we live, work and play."

What’s the significance of language?

“Languages, especially the languages we grow up with, are powerful and potent markers of identity and culture,” states a press release from the city. “B.C., one of the planet’s most linguistically diverse regions, is known as a linguistic ‘hotspot’ because of the diversity and vitality of the First Nations languages in B.C.”

Through interactive stations, video and audio, Our Living Languages provides visitors with the opportunity to learn more about the history of disrupted languages in B.C., the complexity of these languages, and the people – and entire communities – that are working tirelessly to document and revitalize them.

The original exhibition of the same name was developed in partnership with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and is a permanent fixture on the third floor of the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

Can I just drop by?

Visitors can visit the New Westminster Museum on a timed-entry basis to see Our Living Languages and Air Hugs, the museum’s temporary exhibition about New Westminster residents’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All visitors must pre-book a ticket online at

What is Air Hugs?

Air Hugs, which looks at how the city of New Westminster came together under the shadow of COVID-19, depicts New Westminster from April to November 2020. The exhibition features more than 100 photos of front lawn art, posters thanking frontline workers, signs and painted rocks, as photographed along New Westminster’s streets.

What started as a way for museum curator Oana Capota to exercise and to be a tourist at home soon turned into a project to document the pandemic, as she walked almost all of the city’s streets on evenings and weekends.

In addition to viewing the Air Hugs exhibition, visitors can contribute by taking polls and answering questions about how they weathered this unprecedented time.

The New Westminster Museum has made audio and video recordings of some people’s experiences during COVID-19, with excerpts from interviews with a professor and a group of novelists, among others, being featured in the exhibition.  It’s still collecting stories of locals’ experiences during the pandemic, and anyone who is interested in sharing should contact the museum at 604-527-4640 or

What about COVID-19?

In an effort to maintain visitor and staff safety, only six people per bubble are being given entry into the museum each hour. In addition, staff cleans the museum each hour between visits, and visitors over the age of 12 are required to wear face masks and use hand sanitizer while inside the museum and Anvil Centre.

The New Westminster Museum will be updating its guidelines in accordance to provincial health orders. Details will be posted on Anvil Centre’s website.

Details, please:

The New Westminster Museum is located in Anvil Centre, 777 Columbia St. For more information, call 604-527-4640 or go to You can also explore the museum’s online offerings through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus