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Ottawa to create new network of history museums, rename Museum of Civilization

An exterior view of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que. The museum will be renamed to focus specifically on Canadian social and political history.

Harry Foster

The Harper government is planning to create a new network of history museums across the country as part of its rebranding and refocusing of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in the national capital region.

A news conference is expected on Tuesday morning to announce that the major cultural institution will be renamed the Canadian Museum of History.

At the same time, the federal government will unveil plans to ensure that artifacts from the federal museum are showcased across the country, but also that the newly branded museum will display material from other institutions.

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"The Museum is developing partnerships with other history museums across Canada," said the executive director and CEO of the Canadian Museums Association, John McAvity, in an interview. "That is good news. It's not a one-way partnership, it's an equal partnership for exchanges."

Mr. McAvity added that the renaming of the Museum of Civilization, located in Gatineau, Que., is essential given the existence of the Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City.

"It will end years of confusion. You have two museums with virtually the same name, in the same province," he said. "This will be good for branding, good for awareness and it will give Canadians greater access to their heritage, to their history."

The repositioning of the federal institution in favour of Canadian history, at the expense of international exhibitions and an overall focus on anthropology, will lead to a series of changes to its permanent exhibitions.

"You're going to see a major overhaul of many of the galleries, which will put more of an emphasis on Canadian history and telling stories of Canada," Mr. McAvity said.

The rebranding of the museum is part of a continued effort by the Conservative government to reshape the country's major symbols with a greater emphasis on the monarchy and past military achievements.

"It's all about our shared Canadian history," a federal source said of the upcoming announcement.

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The rebranding will be the latest initiative supported by the Harper government to place a greater focus on domestic celebrations. The government this year has marked the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup will be celebrated later this fall.

Other events leading to Canada's 150th anniversary will include a celebration of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-1918 starting next year, and the 150th anniversary of the Quebec and Charlottetown conferences in 2014, among others.

Self-described as "Canada's largest and most popular cultural institution," the Museum of Civilization is in Gatineau, Que., just across the Ottawa River from Parliament.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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