The Harper government is making waves again with plans to revamp the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Formerly known as the Museum of Man, the institution in Gatineau, Que was rebranded when it moved into a new Douglas Cardinal designed building (pictured at left) in 1989.
It’s current mandate is relatively broad. While many of its exhibits and artifacts are grounded in Canadian history and culture, they’re typically situated in a broader context tied human culture and achievement. Often there are touring shows that focus on ancient civilizations from other countries and eras, and there is generally an effort made to acknowledge that “official” history is not always representative of voices and viewpoints that existed outside of dominant society.
Under the Conservative plan, the museum would be transformed into the Canadian Museum of History as part of planned celebrations for Canada’s 150th anniversary as a country in 2017. That’s raised warning flags with a number of people. If the Cons wish to provide more information on Canada’s rich and diverse history, does it have to be at the expense of a popular museum that, in our increasingly globalized world, provides Canadians and visitors from other countries with some capacity to appreciate the ties that bind us together as human beings opposed to the differences that divide us as nations.
If the Conservatives value Canadian history so highly, maybe they should invest more money to ensure that the heritage community has the proper resources, both at the national and local level, to preserve and study our history through such means as respect for heritage architecture, the care of archives and artifacts, and support for academic and amateur historians.
Also, questions are being raised about what aspects of our history the museum will showcase. With the recent commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the Harper government has been criticized for being overly militaristic. Will a new history museum created under their watch acknowledge the true breadth of our nation’s past, or will it offer a sanitized view of our history that champions the achievements of some (soldiers, athletes, business tycoons) while ignoring the very real contribution others have made to our country who aren’t ideologically compatible with the Harperites?
Here’s a link to the CBC report on the proposed changes.