Cuts at the Museum of Civilizations

More cuts were announced earlier this week. The Museum of Civilization announced that it was eliminating 23 positions; 17 members are affected, of which 14 have been laid off.

The Museum claims the layoffs are the result of a “significant” budget shortfall.

That said, according to the Museum’s own 2012 annual report, the museum has been performing well. The corporation met its onsite attendance objectives: 1.2 million visitors attended the museum last year. Paid attendance at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum was within 2.6% of the corporation’s target.

In fact, 2012 financial statements claim that “overall revenues from operations were slightly higher than [the] prior year at 10.8 million.” The museum is nonetheless grappling with last year’s deficit of $658,000.

But while the museum claims not to have the money to keep staff employed, they’ll soon be swimming in money courtesy of the Harper Government, who, let’s face it, has a penchant for renaming stuff.

Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History… err… I mean: An Act to Destroy The Canadian Museum of Civilization, is currently awaiting a second reading in the House of Commons. The Bill aims to do away with the Museum of Civilization in order to create the Canadian Museum of History.
We’re not just talking about fancy new letterhead and a new plaque outside the building; the museum’s focus will be considerably narrowed and its mandate will radically change. Oh, and it’ll cost taxpayers $25 million (so says the Harper Gov – though the change is expected to cost much more!).

In an editorial published in late 2012, Canadian Association of University Teachers Executive Director James L. Turk wrote that the change will rob Canadians of the country’s most popular museum.

Turk is also concerned that the change is largely motivated on ideology.
“From the federal government’s first announcement of the proposed new Canadian Museum of History, some have expressed fear that the new museum would be a parochial institution designed to reflect the Harper government’s ideological version of our history.”

Turk contends that the change fits into a pattern of politically-motivated heritage policy that includes $28 million dog and pony show over the war of 1812, among other examples.
Thomas Peace, a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow in Native American Studies at Dartmouth College, recently remarked that historians weren’t criticizing the commemoration of the war of 1812 – but rather, the extreme irony before them.

“Historians are upset because the government is paying for these commemorative projects while shutting down the research institutions that allow us to do our work and silencing some of our country’s brightest minds working within them.”

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