One of the regular features in BBC History magazine is the out and about section which previews some of the latest events and exhibitions in Britain. In the March issue the pick of the month event is Children's Lives, an exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery running from 24 March to 10 June.
In a short article describing the exhibition Sian Roberts, head of collections development, is quoted as saying "Many child migrants went from a life of poverty to one of mistreatment and unhappiness in Canada."
I was surprised to see such a definitive statement and wrote to Ms. Roberts asking for the factual basis of this general characterization. The reply I received was that "many children had good experiences and many had bad experiences." She further explained that "Unfortunately limitations of space in previews or features such as the BBC History inevitably mean that there is no room to go into any detail, and they necessarily have to use a short quote from a much longer conversation."
It's unfortunate that the quote in BBC History paints a one-sided picture that misrepresents the truth and serves to reinforce existing misconceptions. Unpublished research by Dr Patricia Roberts-Pichette for her forthcoming book on the Middlemore children, who mostly came from Birmingham, and on the organization suggests the Middlemore children in Canada had no more bad experiences than their cohort in the general population.
Good news is no news and bad news sells. Seemingly that applies to BBC History magazine. Yet it is a distortion of the facts and an insult to the philanthropic work of Sir John T. Middlemore and the organization he founded to suggest they countenanced subjecting child migrants to systemic mistreatment and unhappiness in Canada.
Thursday, 8 March 2012
at 12:37 a.m.