Message from the Chair
Following an incredible year in 2017, in which the corporation marked the sesquicentennial of Confederation, the opening of the new Canadian History Hall and the winding down of the First World War Centenary, the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum have continued to maintain their momentum as leaders in sharing Canada’s rich and textured history. Achievements of the past year have been diverse and far-reaching, and have undeniably supported the corporation’s five Strategic Directions, implemented by the Board of Trustees in 2014 to guide the Museum’s activities.
One year after the Museum of History launched the Canadian History Hall, this monumental project has proven extremely successful in supporting the objective of establishing the Museum as a hub of Canadian history. Since opening on July 1, 2017, the Hall has welcomed 650,000 visitors, a testament to the Museum’s achievement in creating an invaluable resource to which Canadians can look to learn about the people, places and stories that make us the country we are today.
Special exhibitions presented at the two Museums during this period were also resounding successes, both from the standpoint of attendance numbers and in terms of meeting the Museum’s mandated responsibility to share important and formative Canadian stories with our audiences. At the War Museum, Victory 1918 – The Last 100 Days closed out a multifaceted four-year commemoration of the courage and sacrifices of Canadians during the First World War. At the Museum of History, Death in the Ice – The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition explored courage of a different sort, examining the tragic story of Franklin’s lost expedition, and the crucial role that Inuit oral history played in helping to solve the mystery.
During this period, the Museum devoted much of its energy towards connecting Canadians to their history and reflecting a personal connection in all aspects of its work. This was achieved through the development of exhibitions, programs and other special initiatives that explored various aspects of the stories of Canada’s peoples, as told through multiple perspectives and the voices of those who lived them.
Part of the way in which we connect Canadians to their history continues to be through the Museum’s social media accounts and digital platforms. During this period, the Museum’s social media content was viewed approximately 31 million times worldwide and proved an effective means through which to invite public engagement and discussion of our national narrative.
A large part of the Museum’s role is to act as steward and caretaker for the country’s material heritage, reflecting our strategic direction to develop a collection reflecting Canada’s history. During the past year, the Museum has made a number of significant acquisitions in support of this objective. The War Museum is proud to have acquired the Vivian Currie Victoria Cross medal set, and the Robert Hill Hanna Victoria Cross medal set. The Museum’s collections now comprise 39 of the 99 Victoria Cross medal sets awarded to Canadians, which will help us better tell the stories of these individuals who demonstrated uncommon valour and bravery on behalf of their country.
Acquisitions at the Museum of History represent a diverse range of stories; the Museum is proud to have acquired the Margaret Hess collection of Inuit art, which comprises nearly 1000 works of sculpture, prints and artifacts. Equally unique is the Museum’s acquisition of the Ultimate Fighting Champion (UFC) title belt won by Canadian mixed martial arts legend, Georges St-Pierre in 2009. The belt was presented to the Museum by Mr. St-Pierre himself, as part of an extremely well-attended public ceremony in the Museum’s Grand Hall.
Engaging in dynamic partnerships and networks across Canada and internationally remains a key means through which the Museum reach audiences around the country and beyond. Partners such as the War Amps of Canada, The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and Library and Archives Canada have all played important roles in projects presented at the Museum. The fruitful relationship we enjoy with our partners was evident this year in the success of projects such as Resilience – The War Art of Mary Hamilton, 1914–1918, St. Louis – Ship of Fate, and Treasures from Library and Archives Canada: A Little History.
After the corporation’s outstanding success in raising funds in support of the creation of the Canadian History Hall, the bar had been set very high. I am pleased to report that this year, the Museums have once again exceeded expectations, raising more than $3,300,000, or 136 percent of the initial target. In addition, this year’s annual giving campaigns brought in a record-breaking $512,126.
On behalf of the corporation, my sincere appreciation and thanks to the 5,691 donors who were instrumental in our success. Donations not only help us to achieve our ambitious plans, but also remain crucial to keeping history alive, and to ensuring that the Museum has the financial resources to carry out its mandate, as stated in its Strategic Directions. My thanks as well to the Museum’s Development staff, and to the Trustees who serve on the Development Committee. Their combined contributions further enhance our ability to effectively carry out the Museum’s mandates.
It has been a pleasure to welcome three new Trustees to the Board this fiscal year. Dr. William Young is an accomplished Canadian historian, author and educator. Dr. Laurier Turgeon is a specialist in ethnology and history, and author of almost 100 books, articles and book chapters. Ms. Narmin Ismail-Teja is an accomplished facilitator, trainer and consultant with expertise in strategic planning and board governance. I have no doubt that they will all make valuable contributions to the corporation and its Museums.
As the Chair of the Board of Trustees, I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to all my fellow Board Members, as well as to management and staff at both Museums, who have continued to do exceptional work throughout the year. The corporation’s President and CEO Mark O’Neill deserves special recognition for the vision and steady leadership he has brought to the Museum during several years of considerable growth and transformation. As always, we remain grateful for the invaluable support and confidence of the Government of Canada in helping the Museum continue its important work on behalf of all Canadians.
As the Museum looks back on a successful year, our attention also turns to new challenges and opportunities. In fields such as research, exhibitions, and strategically growing our collection of artifacts, we look forward to continuing to bring Canada’s rich and diverse human history to life for visitors of all ages. I hope you join us in eagerly anticipating another busy and exciting year for both the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum.
Dr. James D. Fleck, C.C.
Chair of the Board of Trustees