Canadian Museum of History mourns the passing of former President and CEO Dr. George F. MacDonald, C.M.

January 23, 2020


For immediate release

Gatineau, Quebec, January 23, 2020 — It is with great sadness that the Canadian Museum of History learned of the passing of former President and CEO of the Museum and renowned archaeologist Dr. George F. MacDonald, C.M.

Dr. MacDonald began his career at the National Museum of Canada in 1960 as an anthropologist. In 1983, he was named Director and would later be instrumental in the creation and opening of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (today’s Canadian Museum of History) where he remained President and CEO until his retirement from the Corporation in 1998. Following his retirement, he was named Director Emeritus.

“As the founding director of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Dr. George MacDonald worked closely with architect, Douglas Cardinal, to create a stunning museum environment that balanced the important work of collecting and researching with the expectations of audiences. Among his many contributions is the Grand Hall. At once an exhibit, a gathering place, and a venue for state ceremonial events, the Grand Hall reflects Dr. MacDonald’s scholarship and his work to preserve and interpret Canada’s Northwest Coast Indigenous communities,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History.

Dr. MacDonald was also a pioneer of what is now commonly understood as the virtual or digital museum. Before the “World Wide Web” even existed, he was writing about the roles of museums in an ever-more-connected world. He embraced media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s concept of a global village and museums without walls, and was quick to see the potential worldwide reach of cultural institutions. Under Dr. MacDonald’s direction, the Canadian Museum of Civilization was one of the first museums in the world to launch a website.

A noted expert on the First Peoples of Canada’s Pacific Northwest, Dr. MacDonald published a number of works exploring Indigenous arts and society, including Haida Monumental Art (1983, 2015), Haida Art (1996), and Chiefs of the Sea and Sky (1989). He was also a visionary with regard to the role of museums in a rapidly changing world, writing the seminal A Museum for the Global Village (1989) with Stephen Alsford.

The Museum offers its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dr. MacDonald, a man who will always be remembered for his critical role in preserving and presenting Canada’s cultural heritage.

The Canadian Museum of History operates the Canadian Museum of History, the Canadian War Museum and the Virtual Museum of New France. Together, these Museums function as centres for research and public information on the history of Canada. Their principal role is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the events, experiences, people and objects that have shaped Canada’s history and identity. Work of the Canadian Museum of History is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.

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Media contact:

Stéphanie Verner
Media Relations Officer
Telephone: 819-776-7169