CANADIAN MUSEUM OF CIVILIZATION: ABANDONED

Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see. 

~ Chief Seattle ~

 

Text and photography by B. Thomas Witzel  (except as noted)

Old homestead in Montana

Like an abandoned homestead in the foot hills of the Rockies,

the Canadian Museum of Civilization is no more.

 

Rebranded - Canadian Museum of History

In early November 2013, after a fog of controversy, Canada’s Parliament passed its final reading of Bill C-7, an Act to amend the Museum Act.

 

The Canadian Parliament

The amended act changes the name of the Canadian Museum of Civilization to The Canadian Museum of History. Part of the amendment reads, “the purpose … is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.”

 

John A. McDonald and the Face to Face exhibit

Ironically, the Face to Face exhibit, which highlights numerous prominent Canadians including a founding father of our Confederation, Sir John A. McDonald, is slated to be dismantled.

And so too, the Canada Hall…

 

Canada Hall Exhibit - The museum of Civilization

 

The Museum was designed by Architect Douglas Cardinal, and opened in 1989.

Canadian Museun of Civliziation designed by Douglas Cardinal

 

It is located in Hull, Quebec directly across the Ottawa River from Canada’s Parliament.

The Otttawa River and  the Parliament Buildings in Canada's Capital, Ottawa

 

 

Canada's parliament and the Museum of Civilization in 2009 

 

The Museum of Civlization as seen from the Rideau Canal

 

The Canadian Museum of Civilization was Canada’s most popular museum, with more than 1 Million visitors per year.

Grand Hall with First Nations Totems

 

 

The exterior of the Grand Hall

 

 

The Grand Hall

The Grand Hall will remain relatively intact.

 

Grand Hall Staircase and Mandala Mural                                                                                                                            

 

 

Mandala mural in the Grand Hall

 

 

Stairwell in the Grand Hall

 

 

Canada's Parliament as seen from the Museum of Civilization (and History)

WHY THE CHANGE?

 

The following text is from a Library of Parliament research Publication, Section 3 of the Actual Legislative Summary of Bill C-7, dated October 28, 2013:

“Critics of the change noted the importance the government has placed on military history and speculated whether this would become the focus of the new museum… Specifically, James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, lamented the end of the Canada Hall, which he said was the largest and finest social history display in the country…  Victor Rabinovitch, the former president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, said the new mandate reduces the museum’s scope of activity by focusing on the past rather than on contemporary issues, (and) by reducing the role of research.”          

41st Parliament, 2nd Session – Publication Number 41-2-C7-I

 

Exhibit in Canda Hall of the Museum of Civiliztion

This exhibit of the Canada Hall is slated for wrecking crew.

 

Is Prime Minister Steven Harper hell bent on removing this Marshall McLuhan exhibit as well?

Spaceship Earth - quote by Marshall McLuhan @ the Canadian Museum of Civliization

The Prime Minister harps on about fiscal restraint. His majority Conservative government cuts back basic environmental research by closing the Experimental Lakes Area, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory, and the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences.

And yet, 25 million dollars has been allocated to re-brand the museum and to renovate 1/2 of the its 100,00-square feet of exhibits.

An exhibit in the Canada Hall, which will be completely gutted - The Canadian Museum of Civilization

 

On December 4, 2013, The Canadian Anthropology Association made a presentation on Bill C-7.

Grand Hall at the Canadian Museum of Civilization

 

The Spirit Of Haida Gwaii -by Bill Reid

Here is a portion of what the Anthropologists said:

“The funding is not adequate… Current costs to meet curatorial standards are normally about 1K per sq. ft. This means that you need $50M, not $25M, to carry out a renovation… This gross underfunding is going to diminish the quality of the museum… The repurposing of such an outstanding  museum is problematic at best.”

“The museum’s collections are 80% Aboriginal, and the curatorial expertise of the museum is in keeping with that emphasis. It is not feasible to convert those materials and that expertise into other, still unspecified Canadian historical themes.”

                                                                                         

On 500 years since Columbus      Artwork at the Museum

Original First Nations Artwork at the Museum of Civilization 2009

Dan Gallacher is a past curator emeritus of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and former Chief of human history at the Royal British Columbia Museum. He wrote an article entitled Canadian Museum of Civilization, Stalked by a Trojan Horse:

“These permanent Canada Hall historical settings are built and protected with extensive environmental, security, and other museum systems. Tearing out both the period structures and display infrastructures would drain much of the so-far allotted $25 million. To remove, replace, and match the quality of the current exhibits, that amount and twice as much again would be needed. Common sense says it simply doesn’t wash financially.”

So much for fiscal restraint.

 

An Frist Nations exhibit on the gorunds of The Canadian Museum of Civilization

 

THE PLOT THICKENS

 

This post would make a good novel, if it wasn’t a true story… 

 Main Entry to the Canadian Museum of Civilization - 2009

 

The newly rebranded Canadian Museum of History comes hand in hand with an an unprecedented 1 Million Dollar donation by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). The money will be disbursed over the next 5 years and makes CAPP an official sponsor of the Museum of History. CAPP president, David Collyer,  said  that the partnership with the Museum offers “an opportunity for us to establish more visibility — credibility, if you will — across the country. It reinforces our message, but it’s not the vehicle by which we will deliver the message.”

 

Hmmm, I ponder.

Maybe this is the vehicle…

The Canada Hall Exhibit

 

CAPP and Imperial Oil were sponsors of an exhibition on energy that opened in 2011 at the Museum of Science and Technology. Emails obtained by CBC and McLean’s later revealed the oil industry had exerted pressure to alter exhibit content so as to treat them more favourably. Stephen Harper sings his tune to promote the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, while the The Almighty Oil Sands crude rules  ruins the earth.

Furthermore, a recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary by The 5th Estate reveals in depth about cutbacks and dismissals of numerous government scientists and the closure of their research programs.  

Baffin Island & Linden Mcintyre - Silence of the Labs Photo Credit: The Fifth Estate

In Silencing of the Labs, investigative journalist Linden MacIntyre reports about the mysterious firing in 2012 of Dr. Patricia Sutherland, after 30 years of her highly acclaimed work as Curator of Arctic Archaeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Handout photograph  of Dr. Patricia Sutherland by 90th Parallel Ptoduction  Photo Credit: 90th Parallel Productions

Since 1999, Dr. Sutherland and the museum had been researching an important site, Nanook, on Baffin Island. This was featured in another CBC documentary, The Norse: An Arctic Mystery. The archaeological discovery indicates a prominent Viking presence in North America, much earlier than previously thought. The Museum of History will not allow Sutherland to access the artefacts or the data. In essence, the research is suspended.

The Fifth Estate documentary speculated that Dr. Sutherland’s work threatened to undermine Canada’s push for sovereignty over oil reserves in the Arctic.

The Conservative Government ideology unfetters big business and the so-called free market, while controlling, dismantling, and even destroying vital research, data, and academic freedom.

Meanwhile, Rome is burning.

 

Canada's Parliament across the Ottawa River

“Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change… All things are connected.”

~ Chief Seattle ~ 1854

                                                                Chief-Seattle-02[1]

Source: Google Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian Museum of Civilization - in brighter days

 

May all be well ~ Bruce

 

Posted for the weekly photo challenge: Abandoned

22 thoughts on “CANADIAN MUSEUM OF CIVILIZATION: ABANDONED

  1. I entered your blog with relish coming to say Thank You for visiting mine and to return the favor. However, your blog post made me stop dead in my tracks in shock. I, too, do not follow Canada politics but always looked at our neighbor to the north with almost a reverence. Canada always seemed to be smarter, less affected by greed and corruption. Silly me. I should have known better with all the Keystone pipeline happenings. Still, this post shook me to my core – in my wildest imaginings I would not have foreseen Big Oil hijack a museum and using it as a “vehicle” to get their message out. (great image and connection, btw) Is there no end? I’m getting rather depressed about it all. Money, greed, power, corruption….they are destroying our very planet and 1) they don’t care because 2) they don’t believe they are destroying it. Ah, pah, phooey. It’s too early to drink so I think I’ll go take a walk. Anyway, thank you again for visiting my blog. I am DEFINITELY going to follow yours and keep up with all this. BTW that is one stunning museum. I hope I get to see it one day.

    • It is an amazing museum, Debi, designed by by an architect of Blackfoot and Metis ancestry. I do hope you get to visit it one day, though beware – it will tell a new narrative.

      I do appreciate you kind comments and perception about Canada. Our current Prime Minister Harper once said that when he was finished with Canada you wouldn’t recognize it. Sorry about the shock of our dark side.

      Learning about such realities is difficult at times. I think Thich Nhat Hahn once wrote that disillusionment can be a good thing because that’s the way we come to know what’s not real. From my own experience, what I then do with this realization, that’s the part that counts.

      Maybe I should add a disclaimer to this post to ensure I’m not sued by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers… Here it goes… The writer of this blog declares there is no absolute direct connection between CAPP and the re-making of the museum.

      Just sayin… 🙂

      • I confess I’ve shared this story with so many people lately. The rewriting and remaking of history bothers me here in the states and it is disheartening to realize it happens even in Canada! I’m no Pollyanna but do get weary of the Evil Empire invading sacred spaces and changing things in order to get their “Message” seen. Grrr…Love your disclaimer. Have a great day!

      • Thanks for sharing this situation with people. The more we know the truth about what’s happening with so much of politics and big business, the less wool can be pulled over our eyes! Best regards to you Debi.

  2. What a beautiful place and wonderfully recorded Bruce – excellent work. Love the Chief Seattle quotes. Being 100% ignorant of Canada politics I don’t really follow the mechanics of this decision. However I do recognise the power of money and vested interests when I see it. It defies all proper thinking for public money to follow those vested interests rather than not only environmental work but other social needs.

    • Thanks Roy. I always appreciate your comments.

      An interesting aside about the Chief Seattle quotes. A screenwriter adapted and popularized Seattle’s words in a fictional movie in the early 70’s. He was later severely criticized for this. I looked for a quote as close as possible to the original, though the eloquence of any of the versions of Seattle’s words, has always moved me.

      In terms of the oil companies in Canada, this is a powerful force to stand up against. Canada is now the biggest supplier in the world, of oil to U.S.A,. and our tarsands contain a large portion of the world’s proven oil reserves.

      My belief is this: if we (the people) don’t first embrace the myriad ways of saving energy, and then produce energy via safer alternatives to fossil fuels, civilization on earth as we know it, is likely “hooped.” My big contention with the ideology of Prime Minister Harper’s government is how it’s beholden to Big Oil. To fill you in on Harper, he comes from Alberta and was trained as an economist, old school variety.

      More oil = more corporate wealth (+ increasing CO2 levels, destabilization and suffering).

      In the modern day religion of progress and growth, when people speak up against this, it is sadly considered heresy. I’m with Galileo on this – the earth is round, after all.

      Now how’s that for a bit of a rant. 🙂

  3. Excellent post Bruce. very telling. Your conservatives have much in common with ours – business at all costs.
    I really enjoy the Bill Reid pieces.

    Ron

    • Thanks Ron… Chief Seattle of the Coast Salish people and the ancestors of Bill Reid, the Haida, as you know did not always see eye to eye. It may be, we’re brothers after all 🙂

  4. As soon as I read “The Plot Thickens” I understood the entire story behind the changes in this beautiful museum’s purpose and structure. It’s the same story times ten in the United States. Follow the money…and be damned with environmental issues or promises made to indigenous peoples. You said “Meanwhile Rome is Burning” and I tell you honestly, I say that all the time–I just throw in a quip about Nero and his fiddle! I’d be very interested in see in “The 5th Estate.” This is very sad circumstance and I wish I could say “shocking,” but sadly, it isn’t.

    • “As the plot thickens” does get to the crux of the matter. As I began this expose’, I thought, who’s going to think ill about a simple name change. Of course, things aren’t so simple…

  5. Bruce, this is such an important account of the destruction of history and beauty to feed the short-sighted greed of corporate exploitative greed. And lovely photos!

    • Thank you. Looking under the surface of things, it’s amazing what one can find – sometimes good, sometimes bad. And as I delved into this, I was amazed. Not so much at who is behind the smoking gun, but rather, at the smoking gun itself… and the links.

  6. All of you who live in Canada have a huge job ahead of you – to remove Harper and get your country back. Not an easy chore. We have a larger job here in the US, since we seem to be exporting this insanity anywhere and everywhere. I also thought, while reading this unacceptable situation in Quebec, that this may in some way be a slap back to the First Nation people who are leading the charge against Harper’s whoring. Because that is what he is. I’m outraged by this. Thank you for bringing it to our attention in such a graphic way.

    • It is (or was) a beautiful museum.. Now we can look forward to a museum half torn apart, and for how long?
      You may have noticed from the different photos that I have visited the museum on a few occasions… I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to take in some of the exhibits. But I’m sad for those that will never experience this interpretation of Canada and the world at large. The new mandate does not include international exhibits.

  7. Beautiful photos of a beautiful museum. So tell me, how do you enhance anyone’s awareness of world history and cultures by destroying the museum that was specifically named to foster such an awareness? Just another example of the buffoonery inherent in governing bodies. They know what’s best for us, after all.

    • Murry Bookchin was a pioneer in the social ecology movement. He believed in citizen governance in small community councils. Seems that the local community level is where change can happen. I’ve heard some one say we should turn the following adage around to say: Act locally – Think Globally.

      Peace to you and all, Emilio

  8. Austerity is the same in any language…privatization, deregulation and massive cuts in public and social spending. If you haven’t heard of it, you might like Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine”. She gives a lot of context to the seemingly random economic events going on around the globe. It’s sad to see Canada is being run by the same disaster capitalists.

    Great photos and commentary, Bruce.

    • Thanks Jeff.

      Money and austerity knows no borders. I read parts of “No Logo” but I didn’t quite complete it … No fault of Klein’s. Like Sylvester the cat, I should put a bag over my head. Did you know Naomi Klein married Avi Lewis? His father, Stephen, and grandpa, David (now deceased), both led Canada’s New Democratic Party in decades past.

      Stephen Lewis has recently dedicated much his time and effort towards eliminating AIDS in Africa – he has been especially vocal and indignant towards the big pharmaceuticals who won’t relieve patent rights, and to rich nations, who talk and promise to help – then sit back and do nothing. As you said, “the same disaster capitalists. 😦

      Hard to say cheers to that.

  9. There can’t be no civilization in Canada until those ignorant buffoons from mostly Alberta are thrown out of office.

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