A cross-country public engagement tour seeking input on what should be included in the new Canadian Museum of History kicks off this week in Vancouver.
Staff from the Canadian Museum of Civilization (soon to be the Canadian Museum of History) are hitting the road to ask Canadians from coast to coast what they would like to see featured in the revamped museum.
People really relate to certain personalities from the past, so that personal angle is very important.
— Museum spokesperson Patricia Lynch
“We really want Canadians to feel that it best represents what they see as the important personalities, events, accomplishments, and objects that they feel have really shaped our national story,” says museum spokesperson Patricia Lynch.
“We really want to seek input on putting together the best history exhibition that we can.”
The process will include panel discussions and roundtable meetings. Interactive kiosks will also be placed in busy public areas to poll passersby on their vision for the museum. For those who cannot attend the public forums, a website and online survey has been set up to collect feedback.
In addition to public engagement, a team of researchers from the museum will seek input from historians, museologists and academics across the country.
“We really want to find out from Canadians how we can continue to relate to them, and with them,” says Lynch. “The more feedback we get, the better it is.”
The museum makeover will see the current Canada Hall and Canada Personalities Hall being combined into one gallery, which will tell the chronological history of Canada through milestones.
The Canadian Postal Museum will be permanently closed, and turned into a space to host temporary exhibitions featuring Canadian stories from other museums across the country.
Lynch says the changes help to “sharpen the focus” of the museum and put more emphasis on Canada’s social and political history.
Examples of some historical events put forward for recommendation on the museum’s website include: the War of 1812, Confederation, completion of the CP Railroad, the Northwest Rebellion, the Famous Five’s “persons” case, CBC’s first broadcast, expo ’67, the Quebec referendum, the closing of residential schools, and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Lynch says that judging from feedback she has seen so far, Canadians are “very passionate” about their history and the museum, and feel a personal connection to many historical figures.
“People really relate to certain personalities from the past, so that personal angle is very important,” she says. “People feel very personally about their perception of history, which is interesting to us.”
The Museum of History is scheduled for completion in 2017 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The current Museum of Civilization attracts about 1.2 million visitors each year.
The $25-million museum revamp has been criticized by federal opposition parties as an unnecessary expense in uncertain economic times.
The initiative is part of a series of measures by the government leading up to Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.
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