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Annual Report 2017–2018


Message From the President and CEO

Mark O’Neill

Mark O’Neill

This has certainly been a banner year for the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum. As the year began, we were already counting down the days to the launch of several projects of national significance, including the official opening of the monumental Canadian History Hall, and three exhibitions produced in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The War Museum later announced the acquisition of two First World War Victoria Cross medal sets, and opened a new section of one of its galleries exploring Canadian involvement in recent international conflicts. Throughout the year, vital new partnerships were forged with foundations, Indigenous organizations and various cultural communities.

On July 1, 2017, we marked the opening of the Canadian History Hall. The Hall is the largest, most comprehensive and inclusive exhibition about Canadian history ever presented. It is also the largest co curated exhibition on Canadian history — created in consultation with Indigenous communities, numerous experts from across the country and even members of the public. This ensures that the stories Canadians want to see in their national history museum are told from multiple perspectives, and in their own voices. The approach challenges visitors to think anew about our history and the experiences of our fellow Canadians.

One of our key objectives when developing the Hall was ensuring that we presented Canada’s history in an accessible, engaging and relevant way. In this, I believe we have succeeded admirably. Covering a period of some 15,000 years, the Hall explores both the lighter and the darker chapters in our country’s past — from the achievements of Canadian heroes such as Terry Fox, Lotta Hitschmanova and Lester B. Pearson, to the tragic legacies of wartime internment and residential schools.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the Hall’s development has been the opportunity to work closely with a number of Indigenous groups. Two of the Hall’s most arresting displays — reconstructions of a kayaker from Arctic Bay, Nunavut, and of a high-ranking shíshálh family from present-day Sechelt, British Columbia — would not have been possible without the generous support and guidance of their respective communities and descendants. I am also pleased to note that the human remains that made these forensic reconstructions possible have since been repatriated to their people.

Partnerships and collaborations continue to be essential to the work we do, and our Museums benefit considerably from outside expertise and contribution. At the Museum of History, we opened a new gallery dedicated to exhibitions co-produced with Library and Archives Canada. We also developed the outstanding exhibition Death in the Ice – The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition in partnership with Parks Canada Agency and the National Maritime Museum in England, and in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut and the Inuit Heritage Trust.

Exhibitions such as these would simply not be possible without partnerships. And the new Hall would not be the rich resource it is without donations, loans of objects for display, and the generosity of several Canadian foundations. In particular, we would like to thank the Rossy Family Foundation, the Catherine and Fredrik Eaton Charitable Foundation and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation for their generous support.

Partnerships are equally important in enabling us to provide outstanding educational content and programming. They make it possible for us to share our exhibitions and programming with the wider world. Many of our partnerships are international in nature — and this is a source of pride to both our Museums as we continue to enhance our profile around the world. A perfect example of this is the War Museum’s presentation of Witness – Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes at the Musée des beaux-arts, in Arras, France. This exhibition presented French audiences with experiences of the First World War viewed through a distinctly Canadian lens.

We presented many other important national and international exhibitions this past year, including DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition from Australia; St. Louis – Ship of Fate, produced by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in collaboration with the Atlantic Jewish Council and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; and Hot WheelsTM – Race to WinTM from Indianapolis.

None of this would be achievable without the work of our outstanding staff, and the guidance of our Board of Trustees. I extend my sincere thanks to all those involved for their dedication to everything that we do. I would also like to thank our many donors, sponsors and partners for their generous and unstinting support, as well as the Government of Canada for providing the ongoing funding that makes it all possible.

Mark O’Neill
President and CEO
Canadian Museum of History