Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore used his smartphone to snap several photos of archival treaty documents at the Royal B.C. Museum on Thursday after announcing an agreement to share artifacts.
A gold nugget found in 1937, a pack saddle used in the 1858 Fraser River Gold Rush and the 14 handwritten Vancouver Island Treaties — also known as the Douglas Treaties — that established colonial law and acknowledged indigenous title and other rights were on display to illustrate some of the B.C. artifacts that could be exhibited under the sharing agreement.
A memorandum of understanding was signed Thursday by RBCM CEO Jack Lohman and Mark O’Neill, president of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
It’s the first in a series of agreements establishing a nationwide museum network providing greater access to articles of Canada’s shared history.
“This gives us a leadership opportunity of working collaboratively with a very important flagship institution in Ottawa and really allowing our stories, our collections — we are sitting on seven million objects, here — to get out, not only out in B.C., but out across Canada,” Lohman said.
“It’s hugely important for us.”
The reciprocal agreement between the museums will formalize collaboration, the sharing of expertise and the lending of exhibits “so we can have access to each other’s vaults,” Moore said.
The country’s largest museum — currently known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, but set to be rebranded as the Canadian Museum of History — has more than three million items in its collection — 90 per cent of which are in storage, Moore said.
“We need to get these items out of storage. We need to get them out of the vaults. We need to get them moving around the country,” Moore said, clearly hoping the artifacts he took time to photograph would also capture the imagination of the thousands of visitors to Canada’s museums.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization’s mandate and name are being changed in the lead up to the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.
The museum’s Canada Hall — along with the Canadian Postal Museum — will be renovated at a cost of about $25 million, and the museum’s focus on social history will shift to a more chronological display.
Currently, Canada Hall starts in the 11th century with the arrival of Viking explorers and ends in the 1970s.
The country’s more recent history — including constitutional crises, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope for cancer research — is nowhere to be found.
“History stopped when I was born,” quipped Moore, a five-term MP born in 1976. “That’s a sad thing.”
The new exhibition will include articles ranging from the Last Spike, used in the completion of the Canada Pacific Railway, to Maurice (Rocket) Richard’s No. 9 Montreal Canadiens hockey jersey.
The space occupied by the postal museum will instead host touring exhibits from regional museums across Canada. (The popular First Nations artifacts on the museum’s ground floor and the Children’s Museum will remain untouched.)
Meanwhile, the RBCM expects to unveil a new master plan by September and finish a major redevelopment of its 2.7-hectare property in time for Canada’s 150th birthday.
Shortlisted architects responded to a request for proposals for the job of preparing the master plan. The winner was supposed to be picked this month.
Lohman would not confirm Thursday whether an architect had been chosen, but said an announcement will be forthcoming.
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