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CuratopiaMuseums and the future of curatorship$
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Philipp Schorch and Conal McCarthy

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526118196

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526118196.001.0001

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Swings and roundabouts: pluralism and the politics of change in Canada’s national museums

Swings and roundabouts: pluralism and the politics of change in Canada’s national museums

(p.143) 9 Swings and roundabouts: pluralism and the politics of change in Canada’s national museums

Ruth B. Phillips

Manchester University Press

If you are standing on the shores of the Ottawa River looking at the Canadian Museum of History, the national library and archives and other national repositories of Aboriginal heritage, you might well despair at the comprehensive losses of curatorial expertise, programs of research, and will to work collaboratively with Aboriginal people which befell these institutions under the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Looking harder, however, neither the shifting political ideologies nor the era of financial constraint that began with the global financial crisis of 2008 seems to have thrown processes of decolonisation and pluralist representation that began to take root in Canada during the 1990s into reverse. Two exhibition projects that unfolded during that same period provide evidence of that the changes in historical consciousness of settler-indigenous relationships and the acceptance of cultural pluralism have provided a counterweight to the intentions of a right wing government to restore old historical narratives. This chapter discusses them as evidence of this deep and, seemingly, irreversible shift in Canadian public’s expectation s of museum representation. The first involves plans for the new exhibition of Canadian history being developed for the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation in 2017, specifically a fishing boat named the Nisga’a Girl which was presented by a west coast First Nation to mark the successful resolution of its land claim. The second is the Sakahan exhibition of global indigenous art shown in 2013 at the National Gallery of Canada and which marked a notable departure from its past scope. While utopia has by no means been achieved, neither, surprisingly, was dystopia realised during the years of conservative reaction.

Keywords:   Canada, Museums, Exhibitions, Pluralism, Settler-indigenous relationships

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