senators’ statements — International Museums Day

May 28, 2019


Honourable senators, 10 days ago, the whole world celebrated International Museum Day. This year, nearly 40,000 museums in 160 countries joined in marking the fortieth anniversary of this celebration.

The mission of our museums is to collect, exhibit, communicate, conserve, interpret, and research aspects of history, science, the arts, and life past and present. Building upon that foundation, museums have other important roles to play in our societies today.

This year’s focus, “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition” highlights those new museological roles as active, forward-looking actors in their communities connecting traditions and cultures. This theme is particularly germane for Canadian museums as they step up to the plate advancing reconciliation, increasing awareness of climate change and its consequences, in understanding our past, today’s needs and environmental fragilities on land, water and under the sea.

Studies over many years have shown that museums are the most trusted organizations in contemporary society because they collect and present the real thing and encourage and engage in public dialogue based on those real things and real facts. Advancing awareness of contemporary issues is as much at their core as their collections. Where are they taking these responsibilities?

Eminent Alberta museologist Dr. Robert Janes’ excellent recent article “Museums Confront Climate Change” documents the significant public, collaborative and international museum projects regarding climate change.

Senator Murray Sinclair challenged museums about their responsibilities to present the true histories of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Many are.

Last week, Dr. John Young, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ CEO, declared “that museum” considers acts against Indigenous peoples, including residential schools, as genocide.

Museums are important places families visit together to experience and learn. Their educational programs are paramount and far-reaching, sharing histories and lives of Canadians, immigrants and refugees.

Museums’ roles are local and global, offering past and present explorations, examining science and the arts in all their dimensions, social issues and those of conflict, establishing dialogue among cultures, building bridges to peace, and we hope a sustainable future.

International exhibitions to Canada and Canadian exhibitions abroad further that sharing and understanding of cultures and international relationships. Touring exhibitions across Canada underline who we are as Canadians as we seek to resolve societal issues by building on the past.

Honourable senators, I applaud our museum professionals and the many thousands of volunteers who contribute countless hours of dedication. Thank you.