I'm a big fan of The Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. Like millions of others who have explored Canada's most-visited museum, I appreciate it's unique sense of storytelling and its world-class exhibits.
I'm an even bigger fan of Canadian history -- especially narrative history that tells our story as a whole people. This includes those who have immigrated here and it includes those who have always been here (Aboriginal Canadians). It includes our wars, our peace, our innovations and our tragedies. It includes our politicians and our generals, but also our diplomats and those 'everyday' Canadians.
The Conservative government has announced plans to transform The Museum of Civilization into The Canadian Museum of History. This is an excellent, well-thought out decision with the potential to make a meaningingful difference in our historical knowledge.
A previous Liberal decision (under Jean Chretien) to make a museum of Canadian history ended up being cancelled by Paul Martin. No matter. That was to a separate institution and the cost would have been enormous. By tweaking our nation's most popular museum to tell our nation's story, we have a wonderful opportunity to educate young people (and adults) about the story of Canada.
As the Toronto Star notes in its story about this, "historians and cultural critics have long complained there was no place in the nation’s capital paying tribute to the big events, ideas and people that shaped Canada. There are museums to honour war, nature, science and technology and even currency, but no venue that presents the country’s whole story, from Confederation to modern times."
The Star also notes that Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was talking up the need for a "Canadian Smithsonian" similar to the massive U.S. institution in Washington, which celebrates the American past.
I am not sure how critics of the Conservative government can say this is "another attempt to rewrite our history." One presumes that Laurier, King, St. Laurent and Pearson will find their deeds and their time suitably honoured.
Instead, this is an attempt, finally, to tell our national history as only a museum can.