I'd like to begin with a bit of personal background so you know who I am. I'm the director of the Aga Khan Museum. I've been the director since 2012. The museum opened in 2014, so as a museum we've been open for the last three and a half years.
My own personal background is that I'm actually a Greek archeologist. I've been an academic for most of my life. I was born in America. I did most of my professional career in the U.K. before coming out to Canada six years ago to take up this post, so my experience with museums is from the U.S., from the U.K. quite extensively, and of course now in coming into Canada as a new entrant into this wonderful ecosystem of culture.
The Aga Khan Museum is one of the newest museums in the country. It was opened in 2014, and its specialty is the art and culture of the Muslim world, which is a very unusual specialty. It is actually the only museum of Islamic art in all of North America. It was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan because he wanted to create a cultural institution that allowed people to understand the diversity of the arts and cultures of the Muslim world across 1,400 years. As a museum, we're here not simply to showcase wonderful works of art: in particular, we are here in order to tell people stories about the multitude of cultures that make up the Muslim world and how it connects the cultures that surround it across time and space.
As well, we are a very unusual museum because we're not simply about objects and visual arts. We're also about the performing arts. As a museum, we're a hybrid between objects and performances. The reason is very simple. When it comes to the arts, you cannot draw a distinction between what is visual and what is living. You have to look at all of it if you want to talk about the cultures from which these objects and these musical and literary forms come.
As a museum, we have many challenges in common with the museums across this country. Of course, being a new museum, we have the important challenge of trying to establish our identity in terms of what makes this museum unique among its peer groups and also what makes it unique among international institutions.
Despite the fact that we're a museum based in Toronto, Canada, we're a museum that very much views itself as an international museum. Most of our exhibitions are drawn from objects and expertise from throughout the world. I'm very pleased to say that when it comes to the 15 exhibitions we've created, 10 of them, I believe, have been created with expertise coming from outside the country into Canada. I think this is very important, because when you're looking at an area that is absolutely new, you have to be part of a wider international community.
Establishing our identity has been one of the challenges. Also, of course, one of the major challenges has been marketing our museum and making those marketing dollars work. I think the one thing you'll hear time and time again from all smaller cultural institutions is that funding remains one of our greatest challenges.
Even though this museum was founded by and created with a gift that His Highness made to create the building and to gift the collections to the museum, we actually do fight for every single penny that we spend as part of our budget. The capital costs may have been part of a gift, but our operating costs really do come out of our fundraising efforts. Only 25% of our operating income comes from earned income, while 75% comes from fundraising and donations. I'm pleased to say that we've been able to achieve quite a good target for fundraising over these years, but when it comes to sustaining institutions of this nature, funding remains the primary challenge that we all face. I think this is emblematic of smaller museums throughout Canada.
Look at the smaller museums in this country. There are so many of them. When you count up the number of provincial, federal, and municipal major museums, there's just a handful. There are perhaps 20 that you would name within that colossal category of big museums. When it comes to smaller museums, there are hundreds, if not thousands. I believe I saw a statistic that talked about 2,000 smaller museums in this country.
What's important about these museums is that they provide diversity, ideas, and stories and they also represent the many communities of which they are a part or in which they are situated.
All of these smaller institutions face an uphill battle when it comes to funding their operating expenses. Most of these museums receive very little government funding to operate, yet they have a very important role to play in the ecosystem of heritage and the arts within this country. I think one of the great things about these smaller museums is that some great ideas are coming out of these smaller museums because they have diversity and a multiplicity of talents.
When I look at my peer group within Toronto—the Textile Museum, the Gardiner Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum—these museums punch above their weight, in terms of coming up with ideas and also in drawing international talent and ideas and collections into this country. They reflect their specialties, and again one thing you will find with these smaller museums is that they are specialist museums. However, due to their specialities, they have focus, and that focus is wonderful because not only do they have focus in their subject matter, but they also have focus within their communities since they do represent communities and they have wonderful followings. I think that the health of the smaller museum sector in this country is wonderful in the sense that the ideas are there, but funding remains the biggest challenge.
I've mentioned that 75% of our operating budget comes from grants and from fundraising, with less than 1% of this coming from government funding of all sorts. Part of this is that as a museum, we have to be in existence for either three or five years to even apply for government funding, in many cases. We're just starting to cross that threshold. One of the things I will say about government funding is that it does provide very important funds for museums to create these programs. The funding that is put forward is very much appreciated.
As a criticism of government funding for smaller museums, it tends to be very much based on projects and the short term. When you have project-based and short-term funding, while it may help to enable these programs to take place, the one downside is that it does not help with the planning of a museum in the long term. It's short term. It's not growing a museum in its capacity or helping it fund itself in a long-term horizon.
If creativity is to be fostered, if it's to be nurtured in this country, and if good practice is to be perpetuated and even innovated, I do believe that the funding model for smaller museums and institutions needs to be looked at very hard. We need to look at ways in which funding can actually enable these museums to look at the long term and not simply at the project-based short term. I think that is going to be one of the biggest challenges as you look at how smaller museums work with government funding in the future.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madam Chair and committee members, for this opportunity on this most important subject that you have undertaken to study.
I'm going to provide a little context for the Association of Nova Scotia Museums and then bring forward what I feel are very specific examples of our work as it relates to the work you've undertaken with this committee.
The Association of Nova Scotia Museums—we refer to ourselves as ANSM—is a non-profit organization dedicated to work in support of the museums of Nova Scotia. Our vision is that all museums in Nova Scotia are valued by Nova Scotians, are sustainable, and operate according to established standards of excellence. Our mandate of the Association of Nova Scotia Museums, working in partnership with museums, communities, and supporters, is to encourage the development of professional best practices in Nova Scotia's museums, educate Nova Scotians about the value of museums and Nova Scotian stories, and act as a champion on behalf of museums in Nova Scotia.
ANSM is one of a network of provincial and territorial museum associations across Canada. These organizations fill essentially the same functions in their respective parts of the country, though each has evolved to address specific interests and issues within their region. Typically, the PTMAs are all involved in providing training and related supports to museum workers.
ANSM provides programs developed to provide foundational support in key areas of museum practice. A museum evaluation program addresses the importance of standards and accountability for museum organizations. An advisory service is focused primarily on collections management practices and provides a collections management system, which in turn populates the NovaMuse collections website. A museums studies program provides foundational education modules in key areas of museum and non-profit practice. This program is supported by specialized advanced learning opportunities. The ANSM brief to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage will be provided within the context and knowledge gained through the provision of these programs.
With respect to the museum evaluation program, in 2016 ANSM began the delivery of a new evaluation program for museums—MEP—in the province. This important new initiative seeks to advance standards of practice for museums. Evaluation of community museums had previously been undertaken as part of the accountability criteria for a provincial government operating grant program. The new process is built on best practice from similar programs, both nationally—Alberta—and internationally in the United States and United Kingdom.
MEP seeks robust information from the museums in a two-phase approach. Documentation submissions are required in key areas of museum practice. A documentation review is followed by an evaluation site visit conducted by a team of three evaluators with an average of 30 years' experience working in a museum or heritage field. Site evaluations build a deeper understanding of the museum organization's accountability and capacity. Information gathered in both phases of evaluation is distilled into a detailed report for each organization. An overarching report is prepared for the use of the provincial government and is shared as an information resource. I've included a full report in the information package that I have provided for you. This brief will share some of the findings of this report as relevant to the purpose of the committee's work.
The areas of activity reviewed in the evaluation process are governance, management, collections management, facility, interpretation, community, and marketing and revenue generation. Sixty-six community museums were evaluated, with an average overall score of 64.6%. While governance scores were reasonably stable at an average of 75.5%, the related management scores were averaged at 53.9%. This suggests a significant lack of procedural implementation in management practice from governance framework and policy. Support for museum workers, both paid and unpaid, in the form of HR procedures and training was seriously lacking in many of the organizations.
A worrisome trend observed as a result of the evaluations in 2016 was the number of museums with no personnel with any experience of the evaluation process. Twenty-eight of the 66 organizations evaluated reported that no one currently affiliated with the organization had been involved with the previous evaluation process or had been with the organization for more than five years. This represents 42% of the museums functioning with a substantial loss of corporate memory. Aside from the practical loss this represents in organizational functionality, it is almost catastrophic in terms of loss of knowledge relating to museum collections and their relevance.
This exemplifies the very real situation we face nationally as the baby boomer generation retires out of the workforce and increasingly from the corps of volunteers who initially established these heritage organizations in the 1960s through 1980s. Museums have traditionally relied very heavily on the goodwill, expertise, and passion of the individuals engaged in supporting their work. It could be argued that no museum is sustainable without the substantial goodwill contributions of its personnel. Succession planning is an important practice that few museums have the capacity to undertake. As strained resources have been stretched thinner, hiring young professionals to begin the professional development process of learning management and curatorial roles has faltered. Salary levels in museums are typically poor in comparison with national averages, in particular in relation to the complex skill sets required and time commitment needed beyond regular work hours.
There is a profound need for a national training strategy for museum workers in Canada. We must do a better job of providing training support in a manner accessible to all museum personnel. As the old guard steps back from their custodial role of Canadian heritage, a new generation must be supported and given the tools and knowledge they need to carry museums forward and be the accountable, effective public organizations Canadians expect them to be.
Standards of practice are vital for museums. As service organizations operating in the public trust, museums typically receive high marks in surveys seeking public impressions on their relevance and importance to society, yet museums are often operating in a severely under-resourced manner that does little to ensure that standards of practice are in place or adhered to. Many museums serve as vital community-focused centres, and are effective organizations in providing a rich, complex service to society as an understanding of our world today within the context of our shared history. The community engagement area of evaluation had an overall average of 52%, which is a weak showing for this most important part of museum function. The community museums, which scored well overall, typically showed strong results in community engagement. There is likely no coincidence in the relationship between an organizational understanding of and commitment to community service on the one hand, and strength in operational functionality and adherence to standards of practice on the other.
On collections management and NovaMuse, a key area of practical support for community museums in Nova Scotia has been the provision of an advisory service for 12 years. This service rose from a grassroots initiative in the province that recognized a collective need for collections management software systems and related training, technical support, and equipment. Collectively, community museums could leverage public funding to support the shared need much more effectively than they could individually. This service is a strong example of cost-effective shared resources supported by professional standards.
The service has evolved over time to provide public access to collections information for 50-plus community museums in Nova Scotia. Over 300,000 collections records for primarily social history-related artifacts are publicly accessible through the NovaMuse website. This website is an interactive tool through which the public can engage with collections information by making their own contributions to artifact information as well as build their own online collections.
Other provinces and territories are following the Nova Scotian model and moving toward shared collections systems with public access capacity. Canadians have an expectation to access information resources using information technology. Museums have a responsibility to meet this public access expectation, particularly in relation to robust and accurate information about collections and their relevance. We can do more with shared resources but need the fundamental understanding and flexibility within federal funding programs to support the public use needs of Canadians in this digital age. This work is fundamental to the museums' public service role in society, and federal foundational support is key to effectively moving forward.
As an example, ANSM's Canada 150 project, “Touchstones”, was a three-phase initiative designed to engage the public in the selection of artifacts representative of Nova Scotia's role in the evolution of Canada. The first phase involved museums contributing to the NovaMuse website encouraging their followers, through social media, to select artifacts from their collections. The second phase was a distillation, or curation, of the public selections by grade 11 history students to 150 representative artifacts—
I always describe the evolution of the Nova Scotia Museum as very organic. No one sat down at one point and created a plan and built the Nova Scotia museum. It largely evolved over opportunistic things that happened over the decades, and eventually was built to 28 sites of varying types and sizes throughout the province.
Within the Nova Scotia Museum's 28, there are 13 sites that are actually operated indirectly by third party not-for-profits. You have larger sites like the Highland Village Museum in Iona, Cape Breton, which is operated by the not-for-profit society that manages that and does it on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia.
There are other sites that are seasonal for the province. Some are like the Wile Carding Mill in Bridgewater, which is operated by the town of Bridgewater through the DesBrisay Museum as a third party contract with the Province of Nova Scotia.
We actually evaluated the Nova Scotia museum sites in 2017. I didn't include any of those statistics because the province hasn't released permission to me to share those statistics. However, it is a very complicated set-up. Kim may speak to that. She operates one of the directly managed sites. Her staff are all provincial government employees. That's not the case for all of the other sites.
From my organization I provide training and other supports, such as the advisory service with the collections management system. That supports the activities, mostly of the indirectly managed sites, but they all participate in the training opportunities, conferences, and such that we offer.
I think that exhibition in pluralism is very much at the heart of what we as a museum stand for. When it came to the Syrian crisis, we all remember what happened at the end of 2015 and into 2016 with the influx of Syrian refugees into this country. I think it was a very important moment in this country's history, because while many refugees have come to this country, the case of the Syrians was one of the most poignant of all, given the civil war that was raging and also the doors that were closing. Canada opened its doors.
As a museum we decided to respond to that in a very short period of time by coming up with an exhibition that looked at the cultural diversity of Syria. Part of the reason was that with 40,000 refugees coming into the country, we wanted people to understand who Syrians were. We didn't want them simply typecast as being Syrians, refugees.
We wanted people to realize that if you look at their past, over 5,000 years, Syrians are Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, Mesopotamians, Byzantines, Mameluks, and so on and so forth. The cultures that are part of Syria are extremely diverse. People who are Syrian are diverse. That's something a museum and museums in general should be able to grasp and showcase, because what other public institution can do this?
We felt it was very important to showcase that to address an issue that was burning at that very moment. Again, if you can show people what diversity and pluralism are, that's the beginning of learning, understanding, and getting people to think outside of the box.
On Friday, I was visiting the University of Alberta and had some spare time in the afternoon, so I went to the Alberta Aviation Museum. I had to get an airplane fix because I'm a pilot, so I wandered around. There were a couple of volunteers sitting there. One of them asked if they could help, and I said maybe after I've had my fix. I met him afterward and we chatted for three hours. I just stayed there. It was so interesting.
I know of many museums where volunteers spend all their time. This gentleman was 75 years old, a very successful retired businessman. He said that he spends three days a week at this museum and two days a week at another museum in Edmonton. I said that was great, and he said that he loves meeting with people. He is a self-taught historian on World War I and World War II, so we had some great conversation.
We have so many people like that across Canada. Is there any program, maybe funded by the federal government, maybe that we should be funding, whereby we recognize outstanding volunteers? I go back to Mr. Kim's comment about having 400 volunteers.
Is there any type of program, or should we be looking at some type of program, to recognize some of these great Canadians who spend a lot of their time to pass on the history of their communities to others?
To begin, thank you very much for inviting me here today to speak to you about the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is part of the Nova Scotia Museum system, which is responsible for the provincial collection of over one million artifacts and specimens. The Nova Scotia Museum, consisting of 28 sites, is the most decentralized museum in Canada. It is also one of the oldest museums in the country. It includes more than 210 buildings, four floating vessels, and nine locomotives. It's all across the province.
The Nova Scotia Museum tells the stories of our communities, our natural history, our people's history, our seafaring traditions, our industrial heritage, and our artistic life. The Nova Scotia Museum is governed by the Nova Scotia Museum board of governors through the Nova Scotia Museum Act.
Its sites are either directly or indirectly managed by the Government of Nova Scotia through financial allocations and through the policies, procedure, and accountability of the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of the sites that are directly operated by the Province of Nova Scotia.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is located on Halifax's historic waterfront. The museum tells the stories of Nova Scotia's rich maritime history, our seafaring heritage, and our relationship with the sea, from small craft boatbuilding to world war convoys, from the days of sail to the age of steam, from the Titanic to the Halifax Harbour explosion. We are the oldest and largest maritime museum in Canada.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is open year-round and offers both permanent and temporary exhibitions. There are a wide variety of programs in support of the exhibitions, including guided tours for student and adult groups, directed and self-learning assistance, lectures, demonstrations, and educational hands-on opportunities.
We also host many special events throughout the year. As the most visited provincial museum in Nova Scotia, with an annual average visitation of between 130,000 and 150,000 visitors, the maritime museum is considered a provincial icon.
In terms of our facilities, there are two parts to our building proper. We have a circa 1860s heritage building called the Robertson Store. Then we have a new addition that was built in 1980, which is larger. Throughout the two buildings, which are actually combined to be one building, we have nine permanent galleries. We have a temporary exhibition space of approximately 1,500 square feet. We have a very extensive library available by invitation or by request. It's probably one of the largest marine nautical libraries of its kind in North America. We have a small 50-person theatre for different presentations that we host and provide.
We're also, as I said, on the Halifax waterfront, so part of our footprint includes the museum wharves. We have two large jetties and a marginal wharf in between, as well as an anchor yard. We're very fortunate to be located right in the middle of the Halifax waterfront, which is the most visited visitor attraction in Nova Scotia. We do get a lot of people just passing by. From our wharves they can take in CSS Acadia, our 104-year-old exhibit that is out on the water, as well as programming and activities that take place. We're also able to host visiting ships at our jetties.
We also have boat sheds out between the museum proper and the wharves. In the boat sheds we have a number of different hands-on programming and learning opportunities.
We are exploring more and more partnerships through boatbuilding. In the last couple of years we initiated a family boatbuilding program that has really helped us to connect with a variety of community groups, particularly youth. We have activities like that. In the summer one of our boat sheds serves as a gift shop, and we have a year-round gift shop that operates inside the museum proper.
In our services at the maritime museum, as mentioned, we offer a number of different types of tours for different groups. We have large visitations from the cruise ships that come to Halifax, particularly between mid-May and the end of October. Some of them are for visitors from outside the country or the province. We also do tours with schools and we do a lot of outreach in the newcomer and diverse communities in our region. We have a number of tours for English as an additional language that are facilitated by partners coming to our museum. We host a number of different types of demonstrations, ranging from traditional maritime knitting to boatbuilding, as I said, with people learning how to bend frames on a boat or having other traditional marine experiences.
We have a number of school programs whereby students come to the museum and participate in activities, and we have developed relationships and partnerships with other community groups, such as the Halifax Amateur Radio Club. Volunteers from their club will come to the museum and work with students on different types of communication, which has been great. As well, we have model-maker volunteers who have played a huge role in preserving our various ship models or making purpose-filled activities. They also engage with the public quite a bit, and we really value that.
We have public talks on a regular basis, and those are free to the public every Tuesday night, generally speaking. In the summer we pause the public talks, or do fewer of them, and shift to concerts in our courtyard space at the museum, which we do in partnership with Waterfront Development.
We are trying more and more to bring in some cultural experiences to the museum. We have a volunteer program, as mentioned. Some volunteers are from particular clubs, such as the model-makers' guild or the Halifax amateur radio operators, but many come as individuals with a particular interest in having experience in a museum.
We do a certain amount of facility rentals, and we bring in travelling exhibits as well. We share exhibits throughout the Nova Scotia Museum system that we create in-house, and currently we have one exhibit at the war museum on the MS St. Louis that will be opening later in March. We host visiting ships, whether they are tall ships or interpretive vessels, and sometimes the navy will bring a vessel to the museum. We have family programming and March break programming and holiday programming, to name a few. There are more.
Our vision at the maritime museum is that Nova Scotians will live in welcoming, healthy, and prosperous communities. They will participate in opportunities for learning and experiencing our diverse maritime culture and heritage. They will feel engaged in current events, feel a strong sense of identity, and will take an active role in advancing the health and prosperity of their communities.
We see our purpose through our work at the maritime museum, which is guided by the Nova Scotia Museum's interpretive master plan and by Nova Scotia's culture action plan. One year ago Nova Scotia launched its first culture action plan. The plan brings to life the mandate of the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, which the Nova Scotia Museum is a part of, to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of Nova Scotia's diverse and creative communities through the promotion, development, preservation, and celebration of the province's culture, heritage, identity, and languages.
Nearly 2000 Nova Scotians as well as 188 cultural organizations provided input to help create the culture action plan. A formal consultation was held at the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs—
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is Tom Beasley. I'm vice-chair of the board of the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
I'm going to give a little history of the museum, a little history of my involvement with the museum for context, some statements on the evolution of the museum and evolution of the board, and a summary going towards, I think, what your mission is here, which is understanding the state of Canadian museums from a local and community perspective. Duncan MacLeod, the curator, will then give some comments about the collection and the management of the collection.
The Vancouver Maritime Museum was created in 1958 to house the St. Roch, the historic RCMP boat that was the first to go from west to east through the Northwest Passage and to circumnavigate North America, an important sovereignty issue right now that is very topical for Canada.
It has been a national historic site since 1962, with no federal funding. It operates under a lease-grant arrangement with the City of Vancouver. We're on city property. We get 25% of our monies from the city and the rest from other grants and from the gate.
We have a volunteer board, of course. Our substantial collections, which Duncan will talk about, are below sea level, near the water, which is not a good thing, even without climate warming. We've made several attempts to move over the last 30 years, and I'm going to talk about that.
As for my involvement, I'm an employment lawyer with a focus on workplace harassment. That's my day job. I'm also heavily involved in the underwater archeological community, diving community, and shipwreck community, and have been involved in that passionately for many, many years.
I got on the board in 1986 and became chair of the board by default in 1989. Then there was a changed board and a changed vision, and a new director was hired, Jim Delgado, who may be known to many of you. He's a rather iconic, charismatic person in the maritime archeology and maritime history world. I left the board when he was hired because I'd done my job. I got back on the board after Jim left to go back to the States 10 years ago. I was asked back, perhaps because they wanted some dinosaur representation. I'm not sure.
Regarding the evolution of the museum, as I said, we wanted to move off that site, which is a wonderful, tremendous site and has the best view in the city of Vancouver from Vanier Park, but it's not near traffic and it's not accessible from a number of perspectives. We've wanted to move off the site for a long time. There was a move 10 years ago to create the national maritime centre of the Pacific and Arctic in North Vancouver. That failed, and then we were on palliative care for several years.
A couple of hires as executive director did not fare well. We hired a new person, a non-museum person, who was a manager. He turned the museum around, reduced our debt to almost nothing, and created an operating surplus for the last four years. He stepped aside because he had done his job. Ken Burton was his name. He stepped aside eight months ago, and we hired a new director, Dr. Joost Schokkenbroek, who is from the National Maritime Museum in the Netherlands and who is going to bring us, I think, to the next move, wherever we go.
We've moved outside the doors of the museum and brought in a number of people as experts, including my friend Bill Haley—not of the Comets, but of Haley Sharpe—an exhibit designer from England. He designed exhibits for the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and for Stonehenge, and he is currently designing nine exhibits for the Smithsonian.
Bill has engaged our board and our staff and brought us outside to create very interactive exhibits with the Centre for Digital Media, an academic institution in Vancouver. He reset our vision, reset our mission, and talks in the mission about creating a centre for dialogue, research, and artistic expression and experience for the maritime heritage in the Pacific and Arctic.
I think the word here that's key for me is “dialogue”. Museums are about storytelling. Yes, they're a collection of artifacts, but the artifacts are nothing without the stories that evolve out of them.
With that, the next steps are going to be.... The board made a decision in November of 2016 to move. The board made a decision in February of 2017 to move to a site a little higher than we are now, yet relatively close by, but it seemed nimble to other opportunities.
The board has evolved—and I think this is an important step for museums generally—from people on the board with a passion for the subject matter to those with a collection of diverse skills and backgrounds. Our recent board members from the last board meeting are reflective of that. There is Kelly Speck from the Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay, Shaleena Meghji from the RCMP, and a younger person, Peter Helland, with a robotics background.
We've also reached out on indigenous matters. I think it's very significant for any museum in Canada to reach out and bring in indigenous communities. I could go on with this one because a personal interest of mine is the Whaler's Shrine. I'll just tease you a bit with it.
The Whaler's Shrine was collected in 1904 and brought to New York. It's one of the most iconic west coast—and I hate the word 'artifact' on this—belongings. It's a collection of material, about 100 pieces of art, that's stored in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
We have a pledge of substantial money to help repatriate that to the Mowachaht Muchalaht people in the Gold River area. We're about to sign a memorandum of agreement with the Royal BC Museum to assist the Mowachaht Muchalaht First Nation to bring it back. It's been a passion of mine for eight years, and I think we're on the cusp of doing that.
In summary, I think it's important to reset the mission vision. It's important to strengthen your board and get more diverse backgrounds, connections, and passionate people. It's also important to set the governance and make sure you know what the board's role is and what the staff's role is. That's a struggle for any small museum. Know your audience. Diversify your funding opportunities. Above all, have fun, and make it a fun experience.
I'll talk briefly about an exhibition we are currently hosting that deals with personal stories and community connections. It's called the Lost Fleet. It's the story of the seizure of Japanese fishing vessels on the Canadian Pacific coast during the Second World War.
We look at it from the beginnings of immigration of Japanese people to B.C. and take it up to the seizure of the vessels in 1941 and 1942, and then the subsequent internment. We have found that it has been a powerful story, and people from the Japanese community connect with it. Even beyond the Japanese community, a lot of local Vancouverites were not familiar with the seizure.
Through the Japanese community, this has allowed a lot of people to come in to tell their story. They've wanted to share their stories with us of their experience with the internment or the seizure of their family's property. We've created an educational program around it that ties in with the B.C. school curriculum. As well, we have started to create an archive of the people who want to come in and tell their stories. A lecture series around this brings in artists, storytellers, and historians to expand on some of the themes we deal with in the exhibit that touch on immigration and connections to current societal issues around immigration, systematic racism, and issues like that.
Tom, do you want to talk about anything?
As I mentioned in my presentation, a very big portion of our annual visitation comes between about mid-May to the end of October, and it's very closely aligned with the cruise ship industry. A lot of cruise ships come into Halifax.
Probably one of our strengths in terms of the tourism market is the fact that Halifax has a strong connection to the Titanic. I won't lie: a lot of people who come to visit the maritime museum, particularly those off cruise ships, come with the assumption that they're coming to the local Titanic museum. We're always happy when those visitors come and enjoy our Titanic exhibit, but they walk away or come up and comment to us afterwards about how they didn't know about the Halifax explosion, about the role of Halifax during the wars, or about just how active and busy our harbour was and is.
Certainly having a really iconic exhibit or something that really resonates with people from all over the world, that being the Titanic, helps our visitation in terms of the tourism market. It is a very substantial part of our revenue stream in terms of the visitors who come in throughout those months. We appreciate that, we need that, and it's essential, but we are always asking ourselves what we will do if for some reason they decide to move the cruise ship terminal. For many years now, because of that and also because of our changing mandate in the department that we're a part of, we have been trying more and more to make sure that we are building meaningful connections with our community. That goes back to the previous question about connections.
We do put a large focus not necessarily on increasing the visitation from the local markets but on making sure that we're important to the local communities and markets. We're hoping that the visitation follows the fact that we've become relevant to them in some way. It might be that we partner with groups so they can make their programs happen, programs that we may have a connection with. Sometimes it's a pretty vague connection, to be honest, but I think the benefit is that we are working with community groups and developing relevance and value for them. Often there's a snowball effect in new opportunities that end up coming out of it and are many times more closely aligned with our mandate of promoting maritime culture and heritage.
Tourism is very important. We do benefit greatly from it, but that doesn't lessen our efforts or the value we see in connecting more with the local communities.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'll speak English.
Do you get the English translation when I speak French? There's a problem with the French translation, so I'll speak in English.
Mr. Beasley, you mentioned your perception of the impact of local museums in the community. I haven't had the chance to visit the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Actually, some of us will be going to the Junos in Vancouver, which are on March 24, 25, or 26—I can't remember—so if you want to invite us, please forward that to the clerk, and we'll do as much as we can to see your venue.
Mr. Beasley, your commentary brought me to my recent visit to the Halifax maritime museum. I can say I did go out of general interest, but I did pay a lot of attention to the Titanic exhibit. It was a very hands-on experience, and I really appreciated it. What shocked me most about this museum is how it's sitting in the old port of Halifax.
I wanted to ask you, Ms. Reinhardt, whether you think the museum has played a key role in the vitality that you can sense in the area, on the waterfront. It is the most human-scale, lively wharf or harbour area I've seen, and you are right in the centre of it. Did you play a key role in this vitality? I could see that you had many prizes about 20 years ago, so I guess you've always been very popular, and now the site actually needs to be a little more renewed and fresher. Am I right to say that?
We are a provincial museum, so we might be a little bit different from most of the museums you'll be having dialogues with in terms of how we access funding.
I can say that every year we have been fortunate to bring in folks through the Young Canada Works program. That has been a huge benefit to us. It's been a great way for us to try out a new type of program or to just bring in new people in general. We've had in the last several years at least two different ones, often in both official languages. It's been really wonderful to have somebody come in and just focus on developing an experience for people whose first language is French.
In the last couple of years we've also brought in somebody to work on some of our cultural programming in artistic and musical programs and activities. These are things we wouldn't be able to do if we didn't have Young Canada Works.
In the past we have had, through partnerships, some funding to develop some exhibits, but it's been a while since we've done that. ACOA helped us, through the foundation I mentioned earlier, to bring funds together for the travelling exhibit on the MS St. Louis, which is soon to open at the Canadian War Museum.
Moving ahead, I think that the partnership and collaboration will probably be a strategic way forward, not just for us but for all Canadian museums. We all have different challenges. I think the storage issue is a challenge for museums probably coast to coast. It certainly is a challenge for us. Unique to maritime museums are vessels in the water. Those provide very unique challenges. Our CSS Acadia is 104 years old. It's a national historic site, but it has no funding coming with it other than what we have. That is a real challenge.
We have a partner on the waterfront with the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust's HMCS Sackville. They come down seasonally beside us. I know that they come to us and want to discuss possibilities in terms of the needs they have for their vessel in the water and the needs we have for our vessel in the water. I think it would be great down the road if there were some type of forum where we could talk to national partners, and other partners in the industry, to address unique projects like that.
I'll end it there.