Moins de place pour le Québec? | Le Devoir

The challenges of museums and choosing themes and approaches, in this case the Canadian History Museum (formerly Museum of Civilizations) and the shift from a geographic to a thematic approach. We will still see whether this approach works or appears too aligned with the Government’s particular historical and national narratives:

« On a aboli mon poste pour créer un poste pour l’archéologie du Canada central, déplore Yves Monette, ex-conservateur en archéologie du Québec du MCH, un des cinq postes abolis au printemps dernier. Mon expertise, c’est l’archéologie historique, et il n’y a plus personne au musée qui couvre cette période-là pour le Québec. »

En juillet, il avait eu des affectations temporaires. Il travaillait au MCH depuis cinq ans. Un autre poste de conservateur, cette fois en arts décoratifs et ameublement ancien du Québec, celui de Jean-François Blanchette, qui part à la retraite, est éliminé. Deux conservateurs adjoints et un administrateur s’ajoutent à l’attrition.

Parmi les motifs invoqués, on lui a indiqué que ses projets ne cadraient pas dans la nouvelle stratégie de recherche, alors qu’il a lui-même participé à l’élaboration de celle-ci, a défini ses projets en fonction des orientations nouvelles et a toujours reçu des évaluations positives, plaide-t-il.

…. Au MHC, on justifie les mises à pied par une réorganisation du travail en lien avec la nouvelle stratégie de recherche de l’institution développée conjointement avec le Musée canadien de la guerre, qui se décline en neuf orientations regroupées selon trois catégories : signification et mémoire, les premiers peuples et compromis et conflits.

« On a éliminé cinq postes, mais on en a créé cinq nouveaux pour que ça s’arrime à notre nouvelle stratégie de recherche, explique la porte-parole du musée, Patricia Lynch. L’embauche se fait plus selon des critères plus thématiques que géographiques, et on favorise une approche multidisciplinaire chez nos chercheurs. »

Le MCH procède actuellement à l’embauche de deux gestionnaires de la recherche et de trois conservateurs en ethnologie, en histoire autochtone et en sports et loisirs. L’équipe de 33 chercheurs n’est donc pas réduite. Au contraire, parce que le travail de chercheur fera partie des tâches de tous les nouveaux postes, « l’institution élargit ses capacités de recherche », soutient Mme Lynch.

Moins de place pour le Québec? | Le Devoir.

No devil in Museum of History details

Further to my earlier post on the fears of Victor Rabinovitch, former director of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, an alternate more relaxed perspective by Christopher Dummit of Trent University, following the unveiling of the plans for the rebranded Canadian Museum of History:

David Morrison, the head of the team putting together the new Canada Hall, revealed that the main stories to be told were the relations between aboriginal peoples and European settlers, French — English relations, and the experiences of new immigrants. Political history would give structure to the exhibit but “the real content is the consequences of political history …. What did this mean to ordinary people?” He got out ahead of the critics by asserting that the museum would include many troubled aspects of the nation’s history including “residential schools, the imprisonment of Ukrainian Canadians during the First World War, anti-potlatch laws and the forced relocation of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.”

Where were the swords and scythes, the royalists with machine guns, the mock lynching-in-absentia of Lester Pearson? Absent. For now, anyway. Perhaps between now and the opening, Harper’s history apparatchiks will descend to wreak their havoc. Maybe. More likely, the new museum will give us a benign version of Canada’s history — a museumified Canadian Studies 101.

No devil in Museum of History details.

Museum of Civilization changes driven by clashing visions of Canada, former CEO says

Others have commented on the change from the Museum of Civilization to the Museum of Canadian History. Whether one calls this values or ideologically driven, Rabinovitch is right on the significance of the change, and taking it to the most fundamental level. Reflects overall government emphasis on history, the military and Crown through a range of initiatives.

While there was much to criticize in the Museum of Civilization, in terms of how it skirted controversies and at times was almost Disneyish in its portrayal of Canadian history, it did give visitors a sense of the social history of Canada.

Rabinovith is scathing in his critique:

…. the underlying tension in the museum “is with the Harper-Kenney vision of Canada as a land of victorious armed forces, brawny resource extractors and compliant monarchists.”

That Conservative vision rejects what he says had been the mainstream Canadian identity — “a cosmopolitan country engaged with the wider world, where citizens seek solutions through informed debate, compromise, social justice and respect for diversity.

“That cosmopolitan vision is loathed by some Reform-Conservatives as a Lester Pearson-Pierre Trudeau invention,” Rabinovitch said, adding that the Museum of Civilization “is seen as its symbolic temple in the heart of the national capital.

“Its heresies must be uprooted. Real Canadian history, interpreted by select historians, must be installed to express Canada’s true identity as a muscular northern outpost of Western values.”

Museum of Civilization changes driven by clashing visions of Canada, former CEO says.

Critics accuse the Conservative Party of ‘politicizing history’ as national museum mandates change | National Post

More debate on the mandate of the new national history museum. Removal of the phrase ‘critical understanding’ is significant, and reflects a change in substance and tone. Ironic, given one of the valid criticisms of the Canada Hall was its Disneyland-like airbrushing of Canadian history.

All governments struggle with how to cover and portray their history and the balance between reinforcing a national narrative while being honest about the less uplifting parts. See Margaret MacMillan’s The Uses and Abuses of History for a great discussion and examples

via Critics accuse the Conservative Party of ‘politicizing history’ as national museum mandates change | National Post.

How Stephen Harper is rewriting history – Canada – Macleans.ca

Good overview on the remake of the Canadian Museum of Civilization into the Canadian Museum of History, and the likely narrowing of focus and messaging. While the CMC was ‘content light’, my experience taking visitors around from many countries is that the Canada Hall gave them a powerful image of the diversity and evolution of Canada.

And some of Jack Granatstein’s lament in Who Killed Canadian History seemed exaggerated as our kids went through their primary and high school education with a reasonable amount of ‘traditional’ history in addition to social history. Not to say a refresh is not warranted, but hopefully less jingoistic than the War of 1812 celebrations.

How Stephen Harper is rewriting history – Canada – Macleans.ca.