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Blog Contest--My History Museum: What story should a museum tell?

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
16 April 2014 - 8:27am


In the fall of 2012 the Canadian Museum of Civilization announced plans to undergo major rebranding and exhibit development in preparation for the 150th anniversary of Confederation. New exhibits will focus on major moments in Canadian history and the museum will be taking on new name: the Canadian Museum of History.  One of the goals of rebranding is to share more of Canada's story with with the world; as Heritage Minister James Moore said in an October 16, 2012 CBC article,   "Canadians deserve a national museum that tells our stories and presents our country's treasures to the world...Our children need to know more about Canada's past." The announcement was not without controversy. Some felt that the changes reflected a conservative agenda for the nation's cultural institutions and others that it was not the right time to putting millions into museum projects.


Creating new exhibits to tell the story of Canada is not a simple or straightforward task. How much of the content will remain the same? What will change? What is important to Canadians? The museum took a proactive approach by traveling across Canada hosting roundtable sessions. They accepted online survey responses through a website called My History Museum ( The website is no longer active, but the content is available and the museum is still accepting opinions via email. The website poses the following questions: What would you put in your national history museum? What stories would you tell? How would you reach Canadians across the country?


It would be impossible for one exhibit to share all of Canadian history, or even to share one story from every angle. Canada is a diverse nation that spans a wide geographic area. There are moments in Canadian history that might seem essential to one Canadian and irrelevant to another. There could never be enough space to display every artifact in the CMC's collection, and choosing what to display and how to display it, will be an ongoing challenge for curators and exhibit staff.


The My History Museum project received thousands of responses, summarized on the website. In one question, participants were asked whose perspective they would like to hear tell Canada's story. Top responses were from a diverse group including museum experts, aboriginal and marginalized communities, well-known thinkers, and children.


There will never be a consensus on the questions posed in this project.  When the new exhibits are revealed, there will certainly be people who are disappointed  or indifferent, but, in my opinion, those disagreements are essential to ongoing conversations about Canadian history.


Museums have a role to play in preserving national memory and creating a national narrative. Thoughtful disagreement, conversation, and ongoing questions will help the museum to move into the future with an emphasis on the multiple perspectives that make Canada what it is.


Works Cited

“Civilization museum's 25M rebranding to focus on history.” CBC News.


My History Museum.