Good morning. Thank you very much for the warm welcome.
I'm the executive director of the heritage group at the Department of Canadian Heritage, and with me today are Guylain Thorne, who is the senior director of heritage policy and programs, and Kathryn Zedde, who is the senior analyst and manager of policy and legislation.
Thank you for the opportunity to inform the committee on the state of local Canadian museums. We would first like to place museums in the context of other Canadian heritage institutions.
We had planned a longer presentation, so we're going to just go through the first part of our presentation, which gives you some context and some factual information. The second part of the presentation is really focused on the programs and services that we provide. You have this information here, and we're happy to answer any questions that you have about our programs, but I won't focus on that this morning.
If we may, we would first like to situate museums in the context of heritage institutions more broadly.
If you turn to the second page of your deck, you'll see the breakdown of non-profit heritage institutions in Canada. When we speak of heritage institutions, we're referring to 2,600 archives, art galleries, historic sites, museums, and zoos and botanical gardens. We will focus mainly on museums, which make up about 55% of those institutions, and not-for-profit art galleries, which make up about 10%. Together they make up about two-thirds of the heritage institutions in Canada.
I'd like to clarify that many institutions have more than one function. For example, many museums are also archives. When we survey them—and we'll speak a bit more about survey in a moment—we ask them to identify their primary purpose, and that is the basis on which we classify them.
On slide 4, you'll see a portrait of where the heritage institutions, and more specifically the galleries and museums, are located across Canada, and how they're spread. As is typical with other parts of the world of culture in Canada, we are challenged by a massive amount of land and a relatively sparse population. You can see from this map that the heritage institutions are noted in black, and the red figure is the percentage of the total of museums and galleries across the country.
As you can see, in some cases there are significant regional differences in terms of the population of Canada, and in some cases it's quite close. In our department we look at everything in terms of the regions, because this is how we distribute our programming. British Columbia and Alberta, for example, make up together about 25% of the population, but they comprise about 25.4% of museums and galleries. The situation elsewhere in the country, though, varies quite a bit.
The slide on the following page looks at visible and non-visible activities of museums.
Only the part of this iceberg that you see above the water is what is visible to the public: public participation, presentation of collections, the celebration and commemoration aspects of museums and galleries, and the physical and digital infrastructure that you might see, for example, in the facility or on the website.
There is a great deal of work that goes on behind the scenes in terms of the protection and preservation of the existing collections, knowledge transfer and expert training, research and policy development, developing exhibits, and so on. Those are the non-visible aspects for the public. Generally speaking, we find that museums tell us that it's more difficult to raise money for the kind of activity that you see below that waterline.
Of course, there are all the administrative aspects of running museums as well—managing human resources, both paid and volunteer—and all of the issues relating to building maintenance.
On the eighth slide, you will see some general information about our second Government of Canada survey of heritage institutions. This survey was conducted in 2015, and it's based on data that is from the 2013 year. Before launching our own survey, there was very little in the way of comprehensive information about heritage institutions in Canada. We had been relying on Statistics Canada's annual survey of heritage institutions; however, it did not capture institutions with revenues below $50,000. That comprises quite a significant number of museums in Canada, so it was not capturing a wide swath of small museums.
We have conducted two of these surveys to date.
This survey has become an important tool to inform our program planning and policy work. The survey also provides individual heritage institutions with information about the context in which they operate.
It's become a very important tool to inform our policy and planning work, and it serves other levels of government; national, provincial, and territorial museums; and museum professionals, academics, and others. It provides individual heritage institutions with information that can situate them in the context of their peers.
Page 7 outlines a selection of data about museums and galleries specifically taken from the survey. We have taken the data from the heritage survey, which I believe you have seen and been briefed on, and we have done a special report on the situation facing museums and art galleries in Canada.
We can provide that survey to you. It's not yet available publicly on our website, but we have made it available to museum associations. We're happy to provide you with copies of it. It will refine the data a little bit for you and will help you to look at the situation in each province and territory. If you're interested in that, we can provide it.
Concerning the figures you see here, because it's our second survey, we're asking a bunch of quite standard questions coupled with some new questions with each iteration. The survey has a very high participation rate, so we're quite happy with the reliability of the data. It's significantly better than what we had from Statistics Canada. It's all done in-house.
We know, for example, that museums and galleries in Canada are protecting nearly 51 million artifacts. Visits in person are up 21.6% from the last reporting period; that's an additional 7.6 million people. Online, visits are also up, almost 32% from the last survey.
Volunteers have also increased 10%; however, we know that while the numbers are up, volunteers are providing slightly fewer hours. Museums tell us that there is a trend and that this is because their volunteer workforce, which outnumbers their paid or contracting workforce by about three to one, is an aging volunteer workforce. That's a challenge for them.
Yes. Thank you for the question.
First, I would like to say that a number of museums
do not charge admission. The majority do, but some do not, and some provide free-will offerings. I've seen great debates among museums about whether or not they should charge admission as a source of revenue. Some small museums find they are able to get a greater amount of money if they allow people to offer a donation.
Visits are up. Physical visits are up about 21%; these are in-person visits. People certainly are continuing to go to museums for the in-person experience. There has also been a significant increase in online visits; they're up about 32%. Our most recent survey results show about 36 million visits in 2013, the most recent year for which we have statistics, and about 83.7 million online visits.
Many people, of course, are doing both. They'll go to the museum and will use their smart phone while they're there to look up more information about a particular exhibit or they will check out the museum online before they visit it, but there certainly are a good number of very robust in-person visits. Some of the museums are seasonal, of course, so they have visits only at certain times of the year.
I would like to make a clarification.
I can answer in English as well.
Just for precision, to meet the requirement for eligibility in the museums assistance program, we're talking about one full-time staff person for the year. That doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a curator per se, but it has to be a full-time staff person for the museum.
I don't know the origins of the facts for the program, but it was just to make sure that we deal with some sort of professionalism when we're dealing with museums. Also, because the program probably cannot fund everything, we need to establish some criteria to make sure that the program is appropriate to the size of the needs.
On whether that could be removed, with regard to dealing with other museums, two years ago we added a little component under the Exhibit Circulation Fund that allowed these museums to borrow artifacts from the Museum of History and the War Museum. In terms of eligibility for borrowing from those museums, they didn't meet the requirement of having a full-time person working for the museum.
It's just for a very small part of this program that we've opened up a bit. I think we look at the needs for the borrowing of artifacts. There might be museums in Canada that are in a position to borrow artifacts but don't necessarily meet the criterion of having a full-time staff person.
My thanks to the three witnesses for joining us this morning.
Ms. White-Thornley, when your presentation was interrupted, you were on page 9 of your document, which clearly talks about the ratios of government financial support, donations, and so on. That graph allows us to see that provincial governments and the federal government are very committed in the funding.
I will ask Mr. Thorne the question. Ms. White-Thornley and Ms. Zedde, I could then give you my remaining time so that you can share the content of your document. I want to give you time to go over it, because I think your contribution to this study is key. You are here to tell us what you are doing to support museums. Then we can meet with people, ask questions and determine whether needs are being met.
Mr. Thorne, do the provincial culture ministries, including the Quebec culture and communications ministry, have a co-operative relationship?
Is there a coordinated approach in some areas?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Vandal, thank you for coming back to the main topic of our study, the state of Canadian museums, by focusing on local museums.
We will have three exploratory meetings and we'll have to agree on whether we want to tackle this topic and, if so, from which angle we want to do it. Hundreds of museum representatives will want to come to tell us how difficult their situation is.
I have a very relevant question about the young Canada works program. Ms. White-Thornley, from page 17 to the end of your presentation, you mention various programs. In your view, which ones will best meet the needs of small regional museums? The young Canada works program, especially during tourist season, is certainly the most popular, but are the other programs well known? Should we talk to the various museums?
I will wrap up with a comment from the various remarks made by Internet music providers. I am the first to say that we are slow to go digital and to transition to the new technologies. For their part, museums have placed great emphasis on making their collections and works digital. In the iceberg diagram on one of the slides, we can clearly see that everything below the water must go on, even though the works have been digitized and made available on the Internet.
Does that program also meet the needs of small regional museums? We will soon hold two meetings on this topic. In your view, what challenges will those small museums be facing?
I will start by answering your first question.
You asked which of our programs best serve the small and local museums, did you?
Young Canada Works certainly does. The museums assistance program does, especially the exhibition circulation fund, is a very useful program for them. The aboriginal component also helps small aboriginal organizations, and what we call collections management can also help small museums.
Through moveable cultural property grants, we have a fund of up to $1.2 million with which we can help organizations of virtually any size. As long as they can store an artifact in the right conditions, we will support them to purchase material that becomes available on the international market if it's very important for them or if it's something that has been subject to an export delay and is in danger of leaving the country—say, military medals that belonged to the ancestor of someone whose family is present in the community. If they want those, we can help them buy them. It doesn't matter how small they are.
Also of use to small museums are the training services that we provide. We provide funding for training programs that will help to teach them how to digitize their artifacts. This is in-person training or online training.
We talked about the Cultural Spaces Fund, and it can also be useful, but I think the principal question the committee is trying to grapple with may be about the museums that really are so small that they don't meet the minimum professional thresholds. We have very few programs that address those museums. Our programs are primarily aimed at those that meet the minimum standards of professional museums, because the bulk of our money goes to support the national museums and the other money that we have supports those that fall above a certain threshold. Young Canada Works is the principal program to help those that are below that threshold.
We don't use the term “local” to describe museums when we talk about them because, as you said, the Art Gallery of Ontario or ROM might be your local museum. We were looking at it by size of museums.
For the purposes of the data that we've assembled for you, we have given you a financial threshold, which is likely to imply that a museum that is smaller in nature will be local. National museums are the six crown corporations that are the national museums in Canada: the National Gallery, the Museum of History, and so on.
Provincial museums are those that receive provincial funding. It might be The Rooms in Newfoundland or the Art Gallery of Ontario or the ROM. They're primarily funded by the provincial government.
Municipalities often have many small museums that they fund. Municipal museums, generally, are what you might consider local, because their budgets are typically lower, although in a place like Toronto, they might well have budgets well over $1 million.
A local museum, at least from my perspective, refers to one with a smaller budget that serves a local purpose more than a national or an international or even a provincial purpose. It's about the content. It's aimed at a local audience and it tends to be smaller.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning, everyone. Since I just found out yesterday that I would be here today, I have no document to submit.
First, I will go over my career. I have worked in museums for almost 50 years. I have been an observer of the museum cultural scene for all that time. I have participated in the creation and renovation of about 250 museums around the world, but mostly in Quebec. About 50 of them are in Europe, including France, Sweden, Portugal and the United States. I have worked in various capacities, either as a museum planning designer—this is the step prior to the work of architects—or as promoter of ongoing projects supporting the architectural or operational plan and developing themes. I have also worked with collections. I have created around 40 permanent exhibitions for museums, heritage sites and other places. This morning, I would like to talk about the development of museums over the past 50 years.
Before the 1970s, we had what I call “the museology of objects”. Let me illustrate with a simple equation. A museum is a building to which collections are added and that has visitors in addition to curators who look after the collections. In the 1970s, a worldwide movement emerged as what was called “new museology”, which led to eco-museums and interpretive centres. The dimensions of the equation then changed. The new museums consisted of a piece of land, not just a building. For instance, in a national park, which covers a large area, an interpretive centre was set up to provide information about the land. Instead of presenting a collection of objects, the centre handles all the heritage assets on that land. Visitors, and often the general public, take part in its development. That’s another level, which I call the “museum of subjects”. So there were both objects and subjects.
In the past 15 years, a new type of museology has developed, which, in my opinion, is the model local museums increasingly aspire to. They are not necessarily major museums, but they are close to their communities and their people. I have called this trend the “museology of ideas”. So we are moving to a much more abstract level, where the museum is, as I call it, a “community museum”. The community museum includes a society and its challenges, in addition to problems that need solutions. The dynamic forces of the public are demanding change. This is why many museums are now talking about sustainable development and climate change. In fact, they are addressing difficult topics, consulting their people and organizing exhibitions. The Écomusée du fier monde, in Montreal, is quite a remarkable example of what can be done at the social level as well as in terms of cultural development and sustainable development.
I have painted a picture of museology as I have seen it over 50 years. In my view, this will enable museums to become development tools that are much more effective than when they were part of the museology of objects. We have seen the museology of treasures followed by the museology of knowledge. We have now reached the museology of development stage.
The general conference of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) will be held in Milano in July. The theme will be precisely the change in cultural landscapes. In other words, we are no longer looking at objects, but rather subjects. In my view, this is a sign of new tools that museums can use.
In my view, to accomplish this, changes are needed in the attitudes of professionals, in funding, funding sources, the use of new communication and conservation technologies, and so on.
In a nutshell, that’s what I had to say about my view on the current situation.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Rivard.
I had the pleasure of sitting on the board of directors of The Rooms in Newfoundland, which houses a provincial museum, a provincial art gallery, and provincial archives. While I didn't get involved in management, nor should I have, as a member of the board and executive I provided some strategic direction. One of the fascinating phenomena that I witnessed over the past 10 years was the growth online, particularly in reaching a younger demographic.
In the 50 years, as you said, that you've been advising museums in this country, how do you see the online aspect? Is it complementary to museums? Is it supplementary? Will museums become places where we store things, but people will view them online visually, or will people use their phones, for instance, in order to acquire complementary information when they're in museums, or will it be both?
I'd like your thoughts in terms of things that you've seen change over the course of time, particularly in terms of digital technology.
This is a kind of evolution. There has been...with the arrival of computers in the 1980s, we saw many museums experimenting with the new technologies.
My idea on this subject is that all these communication devices you have, your iPhone or whatever, cannot replace the basis of the three-dimensional objects or heritage that the museum or the heritage site can provide. In other words, they should target something that museums have to offer, but in a complementary way. They should be inviting people to come to see those things rather than giving them all the information.
When I plan an exhibition, I always say that there are three levels of reading in an exhibition. The first level is either the works of art or the titles of the major text. Then the secondary text is more informative, and the third level, which is usually hidden, is one that you have to find in other ways, because it's not readily available, and that kindles food for thought.
I think this is where we can come in with this museology of ideas that I was talking about and put in the ideas, because the museum does not have ideas. It collects mostly 3-D objects, but these ideas are linked to these objects, and people sometimes do not see the relationship. This is where this third level of reading is important, and the new technologies help museums in providing that to the public.
It's not an easy task.
Food for thought has to be well dosed, and it has to go to the right clientele.
For example, I worked in northern Sweden with the Lapps, with the Sami community, and we did their national museum in Jokkmokk.
We designed the exhibition of the museum like a reindeer corral. In other words, in the fall when they gather all the reindeer, they make them go around in an area where they turn around, and turn, and turn, and that's the first level. Then traps open up, and reindeer that belong to one group go into one area, or in other words, into one subject. From there they are branded. After that comes the evening, and they have to eat, so there's another loft where they go and feed, and that's the food for thought.
This is the third level. It's hidden from the reindeer for a long time, but when the time comes, the door opens and the food is available. This is the way museums should operate more and more, not just by giving first and second levels of reading the heritage.
Does that answer your question?
Smaller museums have an annual budget problem. This is all across the board in every country. I have not seen many small museums that have sufficient money, because their staff are always thinking about developing new programs and helping children become more aware of things. Apart from that money, I've seen what I call professionalization of museum workers in the last 40 years. When I look at university programs that are given, most of them deal with training in museology that is more adapted to bigger museums.
I don't see training for small museums as being an option. Everybody wants to be a curator at the museum of fine arts, but the places are limited, so they end up on the Gaspé coast in a small museum and what they learn hardly applies because they have heating problems to solve. They have this and that.
There used to be a federal government training program, but it no longer exists. I think the Canadian Museums Association will talk more about it because I was talking with John McAvity yesterday and he was telling me this.
The training is something. The other thing is what I would call thematic planning. Too many museums are talking about the same thing and not really taking one theme that is particular to the region and developing it further, even though their collection does not quite apply to it.
I was always saying that every interpretation centre in the national park system talks about glaciation. Yes, we know, we had a few thousand feet of ice 10,000 years ago. Once you've known that, if you go from Jasper to Banff and have the same story, then there is something that doesn't jibe here, so—
There are many museums in Canada. When I started 50 years ago, there were half as many as there are today. Many were created in the 1970s and 1980s, especially heritage sites or thematic museums that were developed mostly along tourist routes.
This is a natural phenomenon. If you look at statistics from other countries, you'll see that Sweden, for example, developed over 400 open-air museums in the 1920s. There were not even five million people in Sweden at the time. The Swedes museumize whatever becomes obsolete. They museumized agriculture in the 1920s, following the first one, Skansen, which was developed by Hazelias in the 1890s. Now they're museumizing their industry. They're making museums of glass, of crystal-blowing factories.
We don't have that reflex, but this did not prevent us from developing. The reflex is more for us to save what's local, what belongs to our roots and to our fibres, and try to keep them to show them to later generations.
Do we have too many museums? Yes, for the means we have to preserve and conserve their collections. As you know, most collections are not well preserved. Some objects are lost through bad storage.
What I proposed to the provincial government in Quebec was to create a conservation centre or places where the small museums could send their objects to be preserved, as they do in Norway. Then a change starts. Rather than being bogged down by their obsession with collection, the museums start to go into the subject of museology and the idea of museums. They start to develop more social goals for their museums, rather than just heritage conservation. That has helped.
For example, in Trondheim, Norway, it's unbelievable what they have done in the last 20 years in the museum once the state took away the responsibility of preserving their collection. Norway has only 5.5 million people. Okay, they have money. Oil is making a difference. Still, they have as many museums in Norway as we have in Quebec; in fact, I think they have more, and they're more pertinent than many of our museums.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Mr. Rivard, thank you very much for your presentation. I think everyone is amazed at your knowledge and how you have expressed it.
I urge everyone to visit your site, which is wonderful.
It is concerning that you must be an insider to know that you exist despite the fact that you are so active. Personally, I am very familiar with the Musée des maîtres et artisans in Quebec and Pierre Wilson, who is in charge of that museum. You are a revelation for me.
Thank you, Mr. Van Loan. I’m not sure how you have heard of Mr. Rivard, but it is absolutely fabulous to see how inspiring he is.
Earlier, I had this question for the officials from the Department of Canadian Heritage. I mentioned the expertise that needs to be shared. The government departments and agencies are mandated to support development. When it's the industry, it's the industry, but it is important to play a role in the background. When we talk about small museums, which are being studied, we hear a lot about amateurs and people who want to do a good job. In that case, expertise, guidance and recommendations are appropriate. Do you think that people from the Department of Canadian Heritage should go to the ICOM conference, for example?
You talked about your co-operation with the Government of Quebec. Have people like you been excluded from departments? Your expertise is remarkable, but does anyone working for the museums assistance program at Canadian Heritage have one-quarter of your expertise in the field?
I won't be able to speak to the last part of your question.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. René Rivard: My first job was with the federal government. From 1970 to 1973, I was the director of National Historic Sites of Canada for Ontario and Quebec.
In 1973, the government created Parks Canada, and I became the director of the interpretation and museology service for Quebec. We decided to do things differently because decentralization had taken place. There were three of us at the start and, a year and a half later, there were 35 of us. I recruited the best exhibition directors.
I drew inspiration from an American named Alma Wittlin. She wrote a book, published in 1970, that describes 16 points for improving museums.
Her book contains four very interesting points. In any type of museum expression, three people and three professions must be represented. First, there must be an expert on collections. Second, there must be someone who knows how to put together the exhibition. Third, there must be someone who can communicate, who knows how to write texts and who knows the approach that each audience needs. We don't put stuffed birds all in a row on little tripods if we want to talk about biodiversity, for example, or scientific topics. This inspired me, and we worked with that in mind.
I left Parks Canada in 1980 for personal reasons. The phone started ringing, and I was asked to be a consultant.
In 1978, I had $6 million for exhibitions at Parks Canada sites in the Quebec region. Look at how much they have today. It's probably close to zero. And all the exhibitions that were created are now falling apart.
They are falling apart.
The terrible effect of the years took its toll. Unless they are used and shown, the exhibitions deteriorate. It's like an old car that eventually ends up in the dump.
I think that's what needs to be kept in mind.
There aren't fewer challenges elsewhere. They are similar pretty much everywhere. But things vary here.
I have done a lot of work in Inuit and Cree communities. Clearly, because of the cold, it is more expensive to preserve objects at 20 degrees Celsius and at 55% humidity. It costs more than if you were in a place like where the Ak-Chin Indians live in Arizona, where you don't even need a system because the climate is dry. Everything is perfect.
We don't receive government assistance like what France gives its museums, for example. Our structure is mixed and relies a lot on public participation. That's one of our assets that needs to be supported and developed further. That's why friends of museum groups and groups that really want to contribute should be encouraged.
For instance, the Écomusée du fier monde has 2,000 volunteers. These are people in the Centre-Sud neighbourhood, the gay quarter, disabled individuals, people who are illiterate, and so on. Everyone has an impact on the museum and participates in finding common solutions for development within this ecomuseum.
That's an asset. There's a reason why this ecomuseum will be honoured in July at the International Council of Museums in Milan. It was honoured in Dubrovnik last year at what is called “The Best in Heritage”.
This ecomuseum is a very small, local museum in a Montreal neighbourhood that has been working for 30 years to improve the situation of individuals through the new museology that I call “museum of citizens”. It's an industrial and popular history museum.
The same is true in other Canadian provinces. I am working with academics in Regina, Saskatchewan. The province is developing six or seven ecomuseums in the northern part of the province. I need to go there in October to attend a symposium. There will be a sort of one-week session on how to improve the system to give it more momentum and so that things occur more quickly. When there are a lot of volunteers, the project often runs out of steam. If it takes too much time, people get older and, suddenly, they are no longer involved. There is no next generation. The tools needed haven't been provided and one person hasn't been put in charge to urge on the volunteers.
There are natural caregivers, and there are cultural caregivers. These people take care of society far more than you might realize.
A few years ago, there were correspondence courses, but they don't exist anymore. They were offered by the federal government, the Canadian Museums Association and a few provincial museum associations. They gradually disappeared but, these days, with the technology that's available, universities offer distance education courses everywhere. It would simply involve creating a system and employing professors. Personally, I would give courses every week if necessary.
Some voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. René Rivard: I would talk to the students or to a museum director in Yellowknife, for example.
It's done informally, of course, through networks that we create among ourselves. However, there could be a structure to bring it all together, a kind of training program, a tele-university or a “tele-something”, that would make content available to volunteers, to retirees and to people at home. They could take a course every week, advance and support the director of the local museum. We would create expertise, we would create knowledge. I won't live long enough to see what that might mean.