Message From the Interim Chair
These are special times for the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum.
Attendance and donations are both up. The Canadian History Hall — which embodies the Museum of History’s new focus on telling Canada’s national stories — has become a reality. Both Museums have expanded their influence across the country and around the globe. In short, it’s been a challenging, invigorating and gratifying year for all of us.
And in particular, it’s been a personal pleasure for me to have chaired a board that has played a vital role in all those successes.
The talented and dedicated people who sit on our Board of Trustees have been proud to oversee the remarkable work that the Museum management and staff have completed in support of the Museum’s objectives. The accomplishments of the past year have indisputably supported the five Strategic Directions that were implemented in 2014, and which will continue to guide the Museum’s activities until 2020.
If we cross-reference the five Strategic Directions with the Museum’s achievements, we can see the ways in which general objectives have translated into actual advances.
This past year was the most successful year for fundraising in the Museum’s history. The campaign to support the Canadian History Hall far surpassed its target and the First World War Centenary campaign achieved 97 percent of its goal. The Museum has unequivocally met the Strategic Direction to ensure that it “has the financial resources to carry out its mandate.”
The contributions of donors are essential to the realization of our Museums’ mandates. Not only do donors’ financial contributions make it possible for ambitious plans to be achieved, but the donation of artifacts also provides us with the physical means to bring Canada’s past to life.
The corporation also has a responsibility to “establish the Museum as a hub of Canadian history for Canada and the world.” The clearest expression of the Board’s fulfillment of this requirement is its oversight of the development of the Canadian History Hall. The new Hall, with its 44,000 square feet of space divided into 3 galleries, spanning 15,000 years of history, contains 1,500 artifacts that help to tell the story of Canada and its peoples like never before. As a “hub of Canadian history,” the Canadian History Hall is clearly without equal in this country.
In addition, the Board oversees the Direction to “connect Canadians to their history and reflect this personal connection in all aspects of the Museum experience.” A highlight for the Board in this respect was the showcase of artifacts related to Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, the most decorated First Nations soldier in Canadian military history, at a special event in Parry Sound that honoured his efforts. This type of outreach, combined with the administration of the Virtual Museum of Canada, enhances connections with Canadians, wherever they may live.
The Strategic Direction to “develop a collection that better reflects Canada’s history and distinctiveness” was acted upon through the approval of a new collections plan and the acquisition this year of a variety of important artifacts, from Private John Ashe’s Vimy Ridge grave marker; to a collection of photos from a Japanese Canadian internment camp; to artifacts from the so-called “Canadian Caper” of 1980, where the Canadian embassy in Tehran helped smuggle six American diplomats out of Revolution-era Iran.
Meanwhile, a multitude of activities with partner organizations gave expression to the Direction to “engage in dynamic partnerships and networks across Canada and internationally for mutual benefit.” One example is the opening of Treasures From Library and Archives Canada, a gallery within the Museum of History showcasing some of the most historically significant documents from Library and Archives Canada’s collections.
In my capacity as Chair, I would like to recognize my fellow Board Members as well as the management team and staff at both Museums who have done exceptional work. In particular, President and CEO Mark O’Neill deserves special recognition for the vision and steady leadership he’s brought to the Museums throughout these years of growth and transformation.
We are also profoundly grateful for the support and confidence of the Government of Canada. In the 2016 Budget, the government committed to significantly increased funding for the cultural sector, including additional investment in Canada’s national museums.
With the successes of 2016‒17 now in the history books, I hope you’ll join us in anticipating another busy year and our continuing development of projects that reflect the richness and diversity of Canada.
Dr. James D. Fleck, C.C.
Interim Chair of the Board of Trustees