It is my great pleasure to introduce Curious: Ancestry, which – in another strange and wonderful menagerie of stories and articles – explores ancestral connections that span millennia or just a few weeks.
When you visit the Royal BC Museum, you are connecting to the intangible collective memory of the province and the people that call it home. As our CEO, Professor Jack Lohman suggests, “Memory … personalizes history such that any single visitor can feel that they have a connection to the matters discussed.”1 Read his entire essay here.
This collective past that we connect to is, in its base form, ancestry – a broad overarching theme of connection through time. The term is perhaps most used in human history and tied in with family trees, migration and identity, but it applies to the natural sciences as well, being “the genetic line of descent of an animal or plant; [or] the origin or background of something.” (Oxford Dictionaries).
These broad themes of ancestry and memory play out differently in human history and natural sciences. Current generations represent the evolution of all that came before but not all have the collective memory that ties us to our human ancestors. Spanning the length of this publication is one such example, a collection of current botanical specimens representing millennia of genetic lines, evolution and migration. Chosen by Botany Collections Manager Erica Wheeler, they represent 10 species being used in DNA analyses to test hypotheses about the extent of ice that covered BC during the last glacial maximum (10,000–15,000 years ago). These plants have adapted to alpine climate and are broadly distributed across alpine and arctic ecosystems, suggesting they could have survived the ice age in situ. If so, this research will drastically change our understanding of our planet’s history, and plant ancestry in BC. You can learn more about these advances in genetic research in the article by Dr Ken Marr and Dr Richard Hebda.
As you delve into this issue of Curious, you’ll find articles about human history from First Nations traditions to European migration, and sometimes the meeting of the two. You’ll also find pieces about the natural sciences, exploring how discoveries in evolution and genetic diversity are painting a clearer picture of our world’s history. The Royal BC Museum takes centre stage in articles about the hidden history within our exhibitions or how the museum facilitates and plays host to ancestral connections among First Nations family groups. This issue also features three contributions from people outside the Royal BC Museum, each exploring their own interests in ancestry within their work, school or personal lives.
As the fifth editor to date, and the latest piece in Curious’ own line of ancestry, I have benefited from the experiences of those who came before me and the knowledge they’ve passed down. I owe my sincere thanks to the Curious team and all the contributors for making this issue as great as it is – their passion and hard work has continually impressed me.
I hope that, in reading this latest issue, you will discover your own passion for ancestry through their shared stories.