The ongoing unrest and mass protests over tragic deaths symbolic of long-standing patterns of social injustice, amid the backdrop of a still-raging COVID-19 pandemic, have raised questions about the symbolism of historic figures that may be associated with troubling periods of oppression and violence against minorities in our nation’s history.
One such figure being scrutinized for his interactions with indigenous peoples during voyages of exploration and commerce is Captain Robert Gray, an American navigator closely tied to the historical exhibits and educational mission of the Garibaldi Maritime Museum. The symbolism of Captain Gray’s statue has been called into question because of recent potentially negative historical interpretations. This is a matter that requires serious consideration and reflection.
The museum board of directors takes the questions about Captain Gray that have been raised during the current national and regional social unrest seriously. We have begun our own research and inquiries into the matter, enlisting the aid of other Pacific Northwest cultural institutions, historians, social commentators and Native American tribes. Our intent is to accomplish a careful and fair evaluation of the available historical accounts in search of the facts about Captain Robert Gray’s actions as a ship’s captain and explorer in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
It is wholly in keeping with the mission of the Garibaldi Maritime Museum to address this important and sensitive issue. Our mission statement clearly states that our role as a cultural non-profit institution includes:
Provide services to communities throughout the Pacific Northwest geographical region through community educational programs for all ages, in order to develop knowledge and understanding of the cultural and historical aspects of shipbuilding, sailing, navigation and other related activities.
The history of our nation and the men and women who contributed to its expansion and development – like all history – is constantly being informed and improved by new information, insights and knowledge as it becomes available. The museum is committed to pursuing careful scrutiny over the questions raised concerning Captain Robert Gray and sharing the results of our inquiries with the community we serve.
Based on the outcome of the research, the board will consider whether the museum’s exhibits concerning Captain Gray, including the statue of him in the parking lot, need reconsideration.
The Garibaldi Museum is open Thursdays through Mondays, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Appointments are not required but are preferred, and visitors with appointments will be given priority over drop-ins. The Museum will be limiting admissions to 10 people in the building at any one time, so if visitors seek admission while others are in the building, they will be asked to wait in their cars until the previous visitors leave and we have time to sanitize the public areas and restrooms. Appointments can be made by calling 503.322.8411 and leaving name, contact information, the date and time requested and the number of people in the group. Face masks are still required while in the museum and social distancing rules will remain in place. For more information about the Garibaldi Maritime Museum, go to www.garibaldimusuem.org.