Message From the Chair
On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum, I am pleased to present the 2019–2020 Annual Report.
It has been a year of successes and growth for the Corporation. The Museums continued to offer their audiences exhibitions, programs, research and experiences that respond to Canadians’ ever-growing desire to learn more about their history. The Museums’ activities continue to be guided by the five strategic directions established by the Board of Trustees in 2015, which focus on positioning the Museums as a hub of Canadian history; connecting Canadians to their history; continuing to develop a collection that reflects Canada and its diversity; engaging in dynamic and innovative partnerships; and ensuring that the Museum is financially equipped to carry out its mandate.
These directions were intended to guide the Corporation’s activities for the five-year period from 2015 to 2020. The directions have subsequently been reviewed and refined to reflect evolving priorities and new external environments to which the Museums must respond over the coming five years.
The spring of 2020 presented unexpected challenges to our Museums, as it did for individuals, communities and institutions worldwide. However, both Museums met and exceeded expectations for the year, as this report can attest, based on the Museums’ diversity of offerings, impactful experiences and exceptional attendance.
The Canadian History Hall continues to serve as the exhibition that Canadians look to for a comprehensive and inclusive telling of our history. The Hall exceeded attendance projections this year, surpassing a major milestone of one million visitors since its opening in the summer of 2017. Both the Museum of History and the War Museum also offered audiences special exhibitions that touched on a range of historical subjects, as viewed through lenses appealing to a variety of interests — from archaeology and architecture to fine art and photography.
The Museums brought Canadians face to face with their history through a diverse selection of travelling exhibitions on topics such as hockey, war art and the Franklin Expedition. The Museums celebrated the opening of 20 new presentations of their travelling exhibitions at venues around the country and beyond. The Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC), which is managed by the Museum of History, also continued to work with heritage institutions around the country to bring community stories to online audiences. Both the Travelling Exhibitions Program and the VMC allowed thousands of Canadians who may not be able to visit our Museums on-site to benefit from the work of our institution. As a national institution, this is vital in a country as vast as ours.
Collecting is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing elements of the Corporation’s mandate, helping Canadians come into direct contact with the material witnesses to our history. In the past year, we have added a number of fascinating objects to our collections, including an extensive collection that documents the history of 20th and 21st century design in Canada, a leather team jacket belonging to hockey legend Bobby Orr and the archival fonds of the late Garth Pritchard, the award-winning Canadian photojournalist and documentary filmmaker who spent over 20 years documenting Canadian soldiers overseas.
Both Museums have always prioritized collaboration with like-minded organizations, seeing this as an effective and efficient way to provide valuable offerings to audiences. This year was no exception, with numerous partnerships being newly initiated or further developed. The Museums partnered with several Indigenous communities, and the University of Alberta, the University of Lethbridge and the Royal Alberta Museum, on important archaeological projects, as well as collaborating with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and Carleton University on lectures and public events exploring challenging and topical subjects.
Fundraising for the Corporation’s activities remains critical to all of the Museums’ work. The Museums placed great emphasis on keeping donors engaged and informed on the important work made possible by their support. The Corporation welcomed 1,364 new donors to its annual giving program and was pleased to have raised 114% of its fundraising target. Thank you to all the generous Canadians and organizations who see the value of working to preserve and promote our country’s unique history. So much of what we do would be impossible without this support.
Last spring, the Board was pleased to welcome new trustee Alex MacBeath, from Prince Edward Island. Mr. MacBeath’s extensive experience in the business world, together with his work on various boards and within the arts community, is a great asset to the Board and to the Museums it represents. The Board looks forward to working with him over the coming years.
I would like to thank all my Board colleagues for their ongoing dedication to the Museums. I am proud to work alongside these 10 individuals, whose unique experience, expertise and backgrounds all bring important contributions to the work the Museums do on behalf of Canadians. Additionally, the trustees and I extend thanks to the Corporation’s President and CEO Mark O’Neill for the vision and leadership he continues to demonstrate at the helm of our national history museums, as well as the hundreds of staff whose skill and dedication form the backbone of these institutions.
I also wish to thank the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, our former Minister, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, and the Government of Canada for their important and ongoing support.
Dr. James D. Fleck, C.C.
Chair of the Board of Trustees