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WE DO not question the familiar maxim that a nation gets pretty much the sort of government which it deserves; but in reviewing the development of certain agencies of the Federal Government, it seems to us that devoted and far-seeing public servants have often achieved much more than the very limited support which they received from governments and from the public would lead us to expect. The present National Museum provides evidence for this view; it dates from 1842 when the Geological Survey of Canada was established to provide accurate information on the country's natural resources, its rocks, soils and minerals, to prepare maps, and to collect specimens. Geologists, however, have traditionally been men of wide learning and of varied interests, and the National Museum, with its valuable collections suggests how zealously and how generously the directors of the Geological Survey interpreted their instructions. Logan, Selwyn and Dawson, with their enthusiastic colleagues and successors, managed to create and develop a great national institution almost as a by-product of their formal duties, although these were by no means neglected, as anyone may learn who reads the present Museum Curator's account of the first century in the history of the Geological Survey.1
2. The National Museum, although essentially a museum of natural history, has not been restricted by its successive directors to the geological and biological collections of Canada; a very important anthropological section has been developed, with a particularly rich collection of Iroquois, Eskimo and West Coast ethnology; in addition, there is an admirable collection of phonographic recordings of more than six thousand French Canadian songs in addition to several hundred from English-speaking Canada, the last coming chiefly from the Maritimes. The museum possesses also three thousand songs of Indian origin. These collections are in part the result of researches conducted by field parties which carry on investi-
gations in various parts of Canada every summer. Arrangements may also be made whereby the Museum finances, in part, the work of university professors, or co-operates with other institutions in Canada and elsewhere. Such arrangements are made particularly for investigations in archaeology and folklore.
3. From the Director of the Museum we received much interesting information on the work, the plans and the problems of the Museum. The Museum at present is a part of the National Parks Service of the Department of Resources and Development. It is intended to "illustrate Canada's rocks, minerals, ores, fossils, both vertebrate and invertebrate, soils, topography, scenery, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, forests, water-powers, people and their culture . . ."2 The Museum does not, of course, do all these things at the present time. It has developed and changed with the Department in which it is incorporated, and its activities have been restricted in some directions and extended in others. For example, the Museum is now independent of, although still associated with its parent, the Geological Survey. Geological exhibits are still shown in the Museum, but the field work and classification are carried on separately. The scientific departments are now three in number, zoology, botany, and anthropology. The last named has grown extensively and surprisingly as has been suggested above. Apart from important Indian and Eskimo collections, it has conducted researches in Indian, Eskimo, French and English Canadian folklore, music, dances, costumes, arts and crafts; it is making a collection of French-Canadian furniture; and it is planning as its next project the recording of the folk songs and dances of Newfoundland.
4. Two immediately pressing problems were discussed before us at some length. First, the premises of the National Museum are quite inadequate. Space is so restricted that about two-thirds of its exhibits must stay in storage; the east wing of the building is still occupied provisionally by the National Gallery as the result of an arrangement which has persisted since 1910. Although the Museum was given a separate status and a director of its own in 1920, the Geological Survey, by whose officials it was founded, still occupies a large part of the space in the building. Arrangements are now in hand to separate physically as well as administratively the Museum and the Survey; and the space so released, it is hoped, may be available for museum purposes.
5. The National Museum operates on a budget appropriate to the modesty of its quarters. We are informed that in Great Britain treasury grants to ten important museums amounted in 1949 to £1,176,639. The Chicago Natural History Museum and the American Museum of Natural History have annual budgets of $1,012,000 and $2,085,025 respectively, while the Smithsonian Institute has an annual disbursement of $1,062,737 in approximately those fields covered by our National Museum; the
budget of the National Museum of Canada in 1949-50 was $177,500. We have noted also with interest that the American Museum of Natural History employs more full-time scientists in its Insect and Spider Division alone than are employed in our National Museum as a whole.
6. Certain matters of general policy were also discussed during our hearings on the National Museum. This Museum, although known as the National Museum, is in fact a section of a branch of a government department. Some confusion of terminology, perhaps even of thought, has resulted. Referring to a certain department of government, the Director states that it ". . . could very well have a hall or two in the National Museum even though [it] is a separate department from Mines and Resources".3 It was further suggested that "other departments . . . would almost certainly welcome a proposal to have exhibits in the National Museum which would illustrate the resources with which they are directly concerned".4 We are not implying here any excessively narrow departmentalism. The Director and other officials of the department impressed us with their interest in the Museum as a national institution; and, as we have stated, its broad national character is a result of the disinterested enthusiasm of geologists and other scientists of the present and the past. It is their very zeal that has created a national institution which they are still inclined to think of in departmental terms.
7. Another matter discussed with the Director was the definition of the various functions of the Museum and their relative importance. Four were mentioned: the collection of material in "natural history"; scientific research and publications based on this material; exhibitions; general education through travelling exhibitions, lectures, radio talks, popular publications, film strips and like methods. It was difficult, we were told, to place these in order of importance, but the responsibilities of collection and research were considered on the whole to stand as the first two of the four functions. This is indeed substantiated by the fact that in the three departments the ten professional members all give themselves primarily to scientific research, although aiding and co-operating in exhibition and educational activities.
8. Finally, we considered the very important matter of duplication of services. We learned that in addition to the National Herbarium in the Museum, a Herbarium similar in type, although somewhat smaller, is maintained by the Department of Agriculture; in this same department, it appears, exists the only National Mycological Herbarium as well as certain display collections of horticultural plants. Such duplication in different institutions, it was pointed out, is not uncommon in other countries, and need not necessarily result in a serious waste of effort. At the same time, we understand it has caused some concern to officials of the government. In 1939, a representative of the Civil Service Commission presided over a meeting between officials of the Museum and the Department of
Agriculture to consider the matter. Decision was postponed until the proper functions of the National Museum should be authoritatively defined.
OTHER "NATIONAL MUSEUMS"
9. Apart from the National Museum we received a number of representations about other national museums. One of these, the War Museum, is in existence. The others, it is stated, should be created to remedy serious deficiencies in our national life.
10. We received an interesting brief from the Canadian War Museum. This museum suffers from the same maladies which are endemic to our other national museums and galleries: insufficient space and insufficient funds. The Canadian War Museum is housed in a one storey stucco building with dimensions of 110 feet by 48 feet and has limited workshop and storage space in another building measuring 75 feet by 40 feet. The budget for 1949-50 was $16,900. In 1949, 97,404 people visited the museum, and we are told that the numbers for 1950 were over 100,000. Because of its inadequate facilities, the museum finds it impossible to accept for display a great number of interesting but bulky items such as aircraft, guns or tanks. What is even more unfortunate, important items of the War Museum collections for which there is no room in Ottawa have had to be dispersed to various scattered localities in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, and stored in unsuitable accommodation. Moreover, in Camp Borden, Valcartier and elsewhere, there are held in storage considerable quantities of foreign war material destined for the National War Museum. In August of 1949 a very large quantity of German, Japanese and Italian equipment (small arms, mortars, optical instruments) housed in a temporary wooden structure at Camp Borden was destroyed by fire, an irreplaceable loss. It seems quite evident that if the Museum Board is unable through lack of space to accept further exhibits there is a very real danger that these will be destroyed or lost.
11. Apart from the War Museum, Canada has no historical museum to preserve and interpret the traditions of the past, although various collections of appropriate material enrich our capital city. The Public Archives now houses the nucleus of an historical museum including costumes, weapons, pictures, coins, medals and other important material. The valuable Indian, Eskimo and other ethnographical collections of the National Museum already referred to are of great significance. Many of the paintings of the recent war, now sheltered but rarely exhibited by the National Gallery, might find their proper place in a museum of history. Finally, students of history, as well as a small but enthusiastic group of numismatists, would be very glad to see the nation's coin collections, now dispersed and relatively inaccessible, gathered in one place and adequately displayed.
12. Moreover, as we have been told, we have no museum to illustrate the substantial contributions of our country to scientific and technical progress. Canada, in the last fifteen years, has become one of the world's important industrial nations; and a science museum would serve not only to record Canadian achievements in science and technology but as a valuable guide and as a reference for future developments. The National research Council has collected and stored a considerable number of exhibits illustrating the development of aviation in Canada; probably few Canadians, we imagine, are aware of experimental work done in this country early in the century on propeller design, and a little later on the variable pitch propeller. The National research Council is also the custodian of a number of valuable historical exhibits related to general science, radio and surveying, and these, together with the museum of farm implements, now at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa, should, it was proposed, properly be in a national science museum. On this subject, the submission of the National Conference of Canadian Universities was of great interest to us:
"The development of early maturing wheat, rust-resistant oats, the bacon hog, high-laying strains of poultry, and thousands of other comparable achievements in agricultural science have markedly affected the Canadian economy. The transition of farm machinery from the pioneer hand-operated implement is worthy of recognition in any science museum. The processes of Canadian industries, such as pulp and paper, mining, refining, glass, etc., and the development of the incandescent lamp, the telephone, radio, radar, television, etc., should be preserved, even in model form, for future generations who will never recall that such things were non-existent in the days of our parents or grandparents. The Canadian discoveries of insulin, premarin, emmenin, parathormone and many other significant medical and biological contributions should be available as stimulating evidence of Canada's activities in the broad realm of science."5
13. We have also been informed that there is no adequate Botanical Garden in Canada, although important work is carried on in Montreal and elsewhere. In this deficiency Canada is unique among the advanced countries of the world. On this rather curious lack in the equipment of a country so vitally concerned with forest and agricultural resources, we have had persuasive representations from the Royal Society of Canada, the Institut Botanique de l'Université de Montréal, the Société Canadienne d'Histoire Naturelle, the Jardin Botanique de Montréal, the Professional Institute of the Civil Service of Canada, and a joint statement from the Victoria and Islands Branch of the Agricultural Institute of Canada and the Victoria History Society; from this last statement we quote the following:
14. We were told that because of the climatic diversities of our country, no single botanical garden, wherever established, could be adequately representative of Canadian flora, and that however desirable it might be to create a botanical garden in the Ottawa area, it would be necessary to organize branches elsewhere in co-operation with existing or projected botanical gardens in certain of the various climatic areas of Canada; this view is shared by the authorities who have appeared before us. Moreover, there are a few local zoological gardens in Canada but we were reminded by the Société Canadienne d'Histoire Naturelle and others that Canada needs a National Zoological Garden. Finally, there have been important representations on our lack of a National Aquarium, a strange gap in the resources of a country where fishing, apart from its great economic importance, is historically our senior industry.
15. In Canada, with a very few notable exceptions, local museums maintain a courageous but precarious existence, giving to their communities such services as their unsuitable quarters, inadequate budgets and the volunteer help of a few enthusiasts can maintain. It is probably true that most Canadian citizens remain throughout their lives quite unaware of the pleasure and enlightenment which an adequately planned and equipped museum could give them. The sorry plight of museums in Canada is appropriately matched by a widespread public indifference to their inadequacy. Which is the cause and which the effect cannot readily be determined.
16. This indifference makes it the more difficult to secure exact information. In a western city we stumbled, as it were by accident, on a most interesting collection hidden in a basement. The curator gladly showed his exhibits and explained his problems, but modesty had restrained him from presenting a brief for our information. We have, however, received much valuable information from a number of local museums and their curators, and from the newly formed Canadian Museums Association.
17. The museum in Canada began, we are told, with the establishment of the Halifax Mechanics Institute in 1831 which opened a public museum and reading room shortly after. By 1903 a survey of Canadian museums, published, as is common with such surveys, by an American institution, mentioned only twenty-one Canadian museums. The number
has now risen considerably. Exact figures are difficult to discover, partly because of the precarious nature of museum life already referred to, and partly because most lists combine museums and art galleries. Apart from the fine arts, Canadian museums are devoted chiefly to relics of pioneer days, to various forms of science and of natural science, and to historical exhibits, especially those relating to regional history.
18. Two historic museums in Canada are well known for long and valuable services which extend far beyond their immediate community. The Royal Ontario Museum, now an integral part of the University of Toronto, has very large collections, representing a wide range of interests including natural history, general history and the history of art. It is the largest museum in Canada, carrying on extensive work in research and publication and offering general education throughout the province and beyond. It is an institution of national importance. The Saint John Museum is a smaller but much older institution with a century of public service behind it. It is the chief museum for the city of Saint John, for the Province of New Brunswick, and even for neighbouring provinces, placing special emphasis on exhibitions and on information to schools.
19. We learned also that a number of Canadian universities, notably Laval, Western Ontario, and the University of British Columbia, are taking an increasing interest in museum collections. There is general agreement, however, in the briefs we have reviewed, with the statement already made that Canadian museums, in relation to Canada's population and resources, are lamentably few and poor. Except in Toronto and Ottawa very little public money is granted to them. The combined annual revenue of all museums in Canada, public or private, would not pay the cost of one of the aircraft used in our transcontinental service. The public indifference which has tolerated this situation in the past seems to be changing. Serious representations have come to us from responsible groups and individuals on the important services that might be rendered to adult education by adequate museums. Eight different briefs have discussed this matter and have complained of neglect in various fields but particularly in the physical sciences and in applied science. We were also reminded by a group from the Prairies of the regrettable absence of any folk museum to record a picturesque as well as a vitally important phase of western Canadian history.
20. The poverty and inadequacy of Canadian museums is regretted not only because of the present need for good museum services but because every year irreplaceable museum material is being lost. From all parts of the country we had reports on the loss or destruction of museum material. This is attributed partly to general indifference and partly to the lack of any responsible institution to receive and exhibit, or even to store it.
21. Representatives of the Antiquarian and Numismatic Society of
Montreal, the society responsible for the valuable historical collections in the Château de Ramezay, spoke strongly of the indifference towards historical museums in a country where monuments of historical value are destroyed "merely to enlarge a parking lot".7 They reminded the Commission that, in Europe and Asia, law as well as tradition protects the monuments of the past. They went so far as to ask for an embargo on the sale abroad of objects of particular national significance as well as for suitable grants to the museums which should preserve these objects. Archaeological and historical museums and museums of art, we were told, help to develop a Canadian spirit without raising questions of race, religion, or political convictions, and for this reason they should be aided. These views were supported by evidence from other groups in French-speaking Canada, an area particularly rich in treasures of the past. We learned with interest of parish churches which have resisted the popular inclination for novelty, and have preserved much of the beautiful work of early Canadian silversmiths.
22. In British Columbia we also received depressing reports of the loss of material which should be in Canadian museums, through dispersal and sale, very often to the United States. A number of valuable collections have disappeared in this way. At the time of our visit a collection of Indian art valued at $50,000 was for sale and, it was feared, would not find a Canadian purchaser. The cause of such losses was attributed, perhaps too severely to the indifference, not to the poverty of the community. It was in British Columbia also that we were reminded that the totem poles in the province were rapidly disappearing, through neglect now, but formerly through sale abroad. The University of British Columbia has brought together several of the surviving totem poles from various parts of British Columbia, and has placed them in a park in the university grounds. These relics of the most advanced of the North American Indians have been prized in other countries; the finest collection in the world before the war, we learned, was in Berlin.
23. A prime cause of the wastage of material which should be in museums, a cause not unconnected with the indifference of which Canadians now accuse themselves, is the lack of proper accommodation for museum collections. Very few Canadian museums possess adequate buildings which are fireproof. Most are housed in improvised and temporary quarters. Not only do they lack money for new acquisitions; they have not the space to receive those that may be offered as gifts. We heard from the Alberta branch of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild of valuable Indian collections still in private hands. A provincial museum might secure them for a loan exhibition and ultimately acquire them; but there is no provincial museum, and these collections, valuable to the province and to the nation, may well be dispersed or sold out of the country. The Guild itself possesses a handicraft collection which is packed away in storage, since there is no
place where it can be exhibited. Only very rare or valuable articles are now added to their collections because of the want of storage space.
24. The York-Sunbury Historical Society and the Historical Society of the Saguenay tell the same story. The York-Sunbury Society possesses some four thousand objects illustrating the early history of the region, as well as a large collection of books and documents. After being moved from two successive temporary homes, the museum exhibits are now in storage and the collection is inactive in every sense of the word. The Saguenay Society only with difficulty carries on its work of collecting and exhibiting because of the lack of accommodation and of staff. Its representatives commented on the loss and destruction which could be prevented by a local museum with greater resources.
25. Inadequate accommodation, or none at all, is, indeed, the chief problem of almost all Canadian museums. Without adequate and safe accommodation, they cannot carry on their two main functions, the safekeeping of their material and the enlightenment and entertainment of the public. We learned of two small but important collections, one in the West and one in Newfoundland, which through dispersal and storage have suffered irreplaceable losses. Others occupy quarters so crowded that not even the curators, much less the public, can be certain of what they do possess.
26. Any discussion of problems of accommodation and display leads inevitably to a consideration of the curator, and of his duties. The difficulty of finding a curator (and, we must add, the even greater difficulty of finding a curator's salary) was mentioned on several occasions. The importance of this official, and the ways in which he may make the most of his space and material, were explained to us by the curator of the small but admirably maintained museum of the Hudson's Bay Company in Winnipeg. The importance of careful selection of material and of refusal to accept, much less to display, objects interesting only from age or rarity was emphasized. In this museum the principle is followed of presenting small and carefully selected displays arranged in such a way as to tell their own story. Where the original object is lacking a model is used. Sometimes the nature of the story requires a substitute as in the show-cases which illustrate conditions of trading in 1749 by displaying beside the furs the trade goods for which they were exchanged. We received the impression from this and from other representations that the limited collections and still more limited space in most Canadian museums made the services of trained curators not less but far more important.
27. We heard of the problem from a newly formed national organization, the Canadian Museums Association, which gave evidence of an increasing interest in the work of museums, and in means for making it more effective. This organization is concerned with improving museum
services in Canada through the exchange of information, through travelling exhibitions and through the provision of training for museum staffs. With a current annual budget of $300, however, it has been seriously hampered in its work by completely inadequate funds.
28. One of our chief concerns was to learn what relation exists between voluntary groups which support local museums and the National Museum, and how the services of the national institution might be rendered more useful. We have already remarked that representatives of many local art galleries came before us, and all spoke of the services of the National Gallery. By contrast, few local museums gave us briefs, and hardly any spoke at all of the National Museum. We had many comments on the Museum from well-informed societies who gave us their views on all the matters in our Terms of Reference, but we received no evidence of any close relationship between the National Museum and its local counterparts, with the exception of the important part played by National Museum officials in the work of the Canadian Museums Association.
29. Among those societies whose briefs discussed the National Museum, some spoke of it as essentially a national scientific institution, but many more thought of it rather as one of the means of general education. Some twenty groups spoke of the need of local museums for help of various kinds, expressing the view that a National Museum should offer this help and leadership to similar institutions everywhere in Canada. It seemed to us that throughout Canada the services of the Museum were considered inadequate. "The National Museum, I know, is interested in the whole of Canada, but does not seem to be interested in other museums or other museum societies. I don't think they have ever felt that was one of their main efforts", said one witness.8 When this witness and his colleagues were asked what services they expected, they replied that they needed chiefly advice. Other witnesses mentioned in general terms the need of the local museum for expert advice in their acquisitions, and in classification and display. There is a widespread desire that members of the staff of the National Museum should travel frequently throughout the country and it is apparent that these visits would be of great value. We have no doubt that the Director of the National Museum would be very glad to make such visits possible if he had the necessary funds and staff at his disposal.
30. We have found, moreover, that there is a general demand for lectures, illustrated by pictures, slides or films. Travelling exhibitions of museum material similar to those of the National Gallery were suggested by thirty groups throughout the country. It was agreed that a dinosaur cannot travel so conveniently as a picture, but the admirable exhibition services of the Royal Ontario Museum have apparently developed an appetite for similar services in other provinces. One group pointed out
that if the collections and services of the museums were better known and understood they would become such a source of public pride that no one would grudge the money necessary for their maintenance.9
31. The need of local museums for properly trained curators has been mentioned above. It was felt that the National Museum should be prepared to offer training for curators and that this should be one of its responsibilities. No one contemplates formal academic training; what is needed is an apprenticeship system which the National Museum could readily provide. We gathered that most local museums, working under discouraging conditions, would like to think of the National Museum as a centre of information and guidance and as a training centre for museum workers.
32. We were impressed by these views of the functions of the National Museum, functions which it is not wholly prepared to fulfil with its present organization. There is obviously a growing realization of the part that the museum can play in Canadian life, and of the urgent necessity of pooling our resources in order to gather and preserve our museum material before it is too late. Most of the work must be done locally; but we had much evidence that the success of local work depends on adequate co-operation from the national institution.9a To make this co-operation effective, it seems to us apparent that the National Museum should be strengthened in its staff, in its finances and in its facilities generally.
33. After drafting the preceding chapters on Galleries and Museums on the basis of formal evidence presented to us, we turned to the report on Canadian Museums (including Art Galleries) by Sir Henry Miers and Mr. S. F. Markham, M.P., published in 1932, and financed by the Carnegie Corporation.10 The authors had previously prepared for the same Corporation a parallel report on the museums of Great Britain. We think it may be helpful to reproduce here the frank but not uncharitable comments of the distinguished and objective observers of nineteen years ago. It will be recalled that this report, although published in a period of depression, must be accepted as reflecting the situation at the close of an era of considerable expansion and prosperity.
34. In 1932, Canada's one hundred and twenty-five museums were distributed very unevenly over the country; eighty-six of them were found in the central provinces and none, apart from those at Ottawa and Toronto, "really worthy of their province or country".10a These museums were for the most part inadequately housed:
". . . it must be admitted that most Canadian museums, both in building and equipment, fall far below the average in the remainder of the North American continent. . . . In the main, the average museum in Canada is housed in one or two rooms in a university, college, school, library or government building scarcely any of which were designed with museum purposes in view. Lighting,
heating and ventilation are bad, particularly is this so in the case of those museums in the various towns of the Province of Ontario that are housed in library basements." 11
35. Their financing was generally hazardous and always scanty:
"In Canada only three museums have an income of over $100,000 yearly, namely the National Gallery, Ottawa, the National Museum, Ottawa, and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Only seven other museums of any kind throughout the whole length and breadth of Canada have an annual income of $10,000 or over. . .
36. The authors of the Report devoted much of their attention to the absence from Canadian museums of trained curators whose services they regarded as of the very first importance. Only about twenty of Canada's museums at that time possessed competent well-trained curators.
37. The trained curator would follow an orderly acquisition policy, resisting the temptation to accept mere curiosities, a policy which in one museum had resulted in
He would also make it his business to see to the proper preservation and
housing, and to the adequate display of the exhibits. It would be his duty to interest and inform the public, to co-operate in the education of children and to aid the researches of scholars. In the absence of proper curators it was found that
A score of Canadian museums were reported to be doing excellent work, but one hundred others needed much attention and many more museums were said to be needed. The Report concludes as follows:
The people of Canada do not yet realize
38. We should like to point out that this Report was published nearly twenty years ago. It is a precise and detailed survey, financed by the eminent Corporation which has done so much for Canadian cultural life. We assume that it was thought that Canadians, if informed of this regrettable situation, would take immediate measures to correct it. No such measures were taken. We believe that during our own admittedly superficial survey of a matter, which, important as it is, lies only on the periphery of our Terms of Reference, there appeared the first evidence of general public concern for museums since the publication of the Report. Those who compare the record of our own impressions with the findings of the Report will see that the present shows little if any sign of improvement. The annual per capita expenditure on museums in terms
of real value has probably decreased. Canada's relative importance in the world has decidedly increased. If our distinguished visitors of twenty years ago could then reproach us for being blind to our responsibilities as a "leading nation", it is perhaps as well that they are not required to pass judgement on us today.
* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.