Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning everyone.
Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today. As the chair mentioned, my name is Josh Basseches, and I'm Director and CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum. It truly is an honour to be here with you this morning.
I believe that museums are vital community builders and trusted sources of information. In our complex and media-saturated world, where facts compete with alternative facts for attention, they are more important than ever. Museums were curating our understanding long before Instagram and Facebook. Canadian society is undergoing rapid change. If museums are to remain essential sources of insight, wonder, and knowledge, if they are to be catalysts for our diverse, informed civil society of the future, then they must evolve as well. They must refocus outward toward our communities even more.
I've dedicated my 30-year career to museums. I've worked in such art institutions as Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the Peabody Essex Museum, the oldest museum in North America, and in such science institutions as the Harvard Museum of Natural History. For the past two very exciting years, I've had the privilege to be at the ROM. Armed with graduate degrees in both art history and business administration, I look at museums from a vantage point that integrates the content of what we do with management and financial awareness.
Museums steward our past, interpret our present, and help shape our future. They have a vital impact on people's lives. In fact, overall annual attendance at museums typically exceeds that of all professional sporting events combined. Museums are change agents and springboards to happier, healthier lives and stronger communities. They have great potential to help transform society in the 21st century.
Let me share some of the approaches we're using at the ROM as an example of one institution's efforts to navigate our rapidly changing times. The ROM, as you may know, is our country's largest and most comprehensive museum of art, culture, and nature. One of the top 10 museums in North America by many metrics, it is among the most internationally respected encyclopedic institutions. We are also proud to be a recognized leader in research, learning, community outreach, and accessibility.
Just a few numbers tell a compelling story about the ROM in recent years. In 2017 almost 1.4 million people visited the ROM, a 49% increase over just three years ago, which is the highest annual single museum attendance in Canada. Our membership has also grown by almost 30% and now includes 117,000 members. More than 300,000 children annually attend our programs, which foster a lifelong passion for learning. I should mention a couple; I was told by committee members just recently that their children were there.
Our experts currently undertake research in 32 countries around the globe. Perhaps most importantly, in partnership with 75 community organizations, we annually provide over 100,000 free ROM passes and extensive programming to vulnerable populations, ranging from indigenous youth to new Canadians from Syria.
Museums promote scholarship, innovation, and knowledge locally, nationally, and internationally. Museums also enable Canada to tell its story globally, enhancing knowledge and cultural diplomacy. For instance, building on our century-long relationship with China, ROM exhibitions were seen last year by more than one million people in three Chinese museums. The ROM is also honoured to be part of Minister 's creative industries trade mission to China next month.
Given the evolving community demographics and expectations of our audiences, museums must become even more responsive to the public, more inclusive and democratic, more engaging and relevant. A recent Culture Track study asked 4,000 people what culture means to them. The findings were unexpected, and suggest a changing view of why people attend cultural activities. The study showed that people want culture for four top reasons: to broaden their perspectives, build community, provide educational experiences, and foster empathy. That's quite different from what the same study found only 10 years ago. Simply providing intellectual, aesthetic, and historical experiences is no longer enough.
Consider these words: perspectives, community, empathy. They focus on engaging the heart as well as the mind. They necessitate presenting users with material and topics that feel relevant to their daily lives and concerns.
Towards this new paradigm, the ROM and many of our most innovative peers are changing the way our institutions look, feel, and interact with the public. We're leveraging the strengths and excellence of our collections, research, exhibitions, and facilities to engage with and stay relevant to our diverse public; to open our doors even wider, both figuratively and literally; and to become a critical gathering place for community activity.
The ROM's strategic vision is to be a hub of civic engagement, to present multiple voices and diverse perspectives, to embrace innovation and change, to infuse digital thinking across all levels, and to engage the public in dynamic ways that they find meaningful. This vision is the foundation of our evolution into a truly 21st-century museum, one that is at the heart of our community and is vibrant, inclusive, and participatory.
To survive and thrive, I believe every museum, whatever its size and location, will need to embrace the changing landscape of cultural consumption. There is no substitute for authentic objects and for experiences that are etched into people's hearts and minds. However, institutions must continue to find relevance in a tech-obsessed, digitally-disrupted environment.
The predictable response about how to best foster a thriving Canadian museum ecosystem is simple: just increase annual operating support for museums. However, I suspect that this is not sufficient for this committee's current purposes, nor does it offer any new or creative thinking.
I do believe there are opportunities to leverage comparatively small financial investments for big impacts, impacts that will help our museum sector. Here are a few ideas for your consideration, and I'd certainly be happy to discuss them either in the question period or at some other occasion.
First, expand the endowment-matching program of the Canada cultural investment fund to include museums, since it currently principally covers performing arts organizations. Donors are attracted to matching gift opportunities and will often give, or give more, if their gifts will be matched. Endowments—for everything from positions to operations—provide institutions with financial support in perpetuity. Extending this program to museums would leverage finite public funds to maximize private support. These endowment funds would also secure the financial future of museums, assisting them in weathering changing economic times.
Second, create a program to fund technical assistance for the museum field. Many museums need to rethink their positioning to succeed in the current environment that I've been describing. They need to develop a new business plan, consider merging with another institution, test the feasibility of an innovative program or a facility renovation. Creating a competitive program where museums can seek smaller targeted support for this kind of technical assistance has proven in other places to be an efficient way to leverage modest resources for outsized impact.
Third, create a talent mentoring program for the museum sector. Right now, the talent pipeline for key leadership and curatorial jobs in Canadian museums is not robust. Large museums often look abroad for talent, and emerging professionals regularly head to American and European institutions to develop their skills. Creating new programs and scaling up existing ones that encourage seasoned museum leaders to mentor emerging professionals would enhance strong domestic museum leadership capacity for the future.
Museums play a unique role in fostering engaged citizens. In a flourishing pluralistic society, people need to know their past, ask critical questions, take thoughtful action in the present, and build for the future. In a thriving democracy, we need more and varied voices, not fewer. Our cultural institutions ensure that lesser-known stories and marginalized perspectives are heard. This creates understanding and empathy for our fellow citizens. Museums can help us be our best selves—today and for tomorrow.
I thank you, the committee, for the opportunity to speak with you this morning. Your work will help to define the vision and vital role that museums and other cultural institutions will play in assisting all of us to learn, participate, and understand ourselves and our world.
—senior manager, and Anastasia Pivnicki, from our summer youth employment program, under the graduate program. Without people like Dennis and Anastasia, we wouldn't exist.
It was Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, who said that Canada was a country that suffered from too much geography and not enough history. However, as Canada celebrates its 150 anniversary, Sir John would have been pleasantly surprised to note there are now more than 2,600 accredited museums, public art galleries, and related heritage institutions that are preserving and promoting our Canadian heritage in various ways. Museums employ more than 28,000 people, made up of part-time and full-time employees. However, over 106,000 volunteers far outnumber the paid employees and contribute over 5.6 million hours per year across the country to help heritage institutions, museums, and art galleries to meet their mandate.
While the Canadian Museums Association represents the interests of most of the accredited museums and heritage institutions in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Friends of Museums, the CFFM, was created in 1977 to be the national voice of the thousands of these selfless individuals who so willingly give their time to the majority of the same museums and heritage institutions that have to rely on them for their existence, in particular the small local and community museums.
Many of the museums and heritage institutions have organized their volunteers and associations of friends as legal entities, registered as non-profit corporations that can issue tax receipts for donations, both monetary and in kind. This applies to large museums as well as to the smaller institutions. The CFFM considers all those individuals who volunteer their time, such as trustees and donors, and not only front-line volunteers, to be friends of museums. In the last few years, the CFFM has noted an increase in retired professionals, such as doctors and lawyers and trained museum specialists, volunteering in both large and smaller museums. Dennis worked in a museum. I worked in a museum for 40-some-odd years. This is due to the so-called baby boomers reaching the age of retirement and wanting to give back to their communities.
We understand that the standing committee is particularly interested in reviewing the state of local and municipal museums, and the CFFM welcomes this focus. While the larger federal and provincial museums have their own issues with inadequate resources, it is the smaller museums that are in desperate need of help. An analysis of the data contained in the “Government of Canada Survey of Heritage Institutions: 2015” reveals that about 42% of heritage institutions that are archives, art galleries, and museums have an operating budget of less than $40,000, and that slightly larger institutions, about 19%, have an operating budget of between $40,000 and $99,000. Thus, over half of heritage institutions in Canada must get by with less than $100,000 per year, which means the collections are generally poorly stored and maintained, exhibitions are not very sophisticated, and professional staff cannot be hired, which of course increases the reliance on volunteers.
The number of these smaller museums and heritage institutions known for their importance is not well understood or appreciated. There is some anecdotal appreciation of the cultural importance of preserving local history, of them being invaluable resources for local schools, of them being gathering places for communities, of them reconnecting and remembering places for an aging population, and for offering opportunities to newcomers and immigrants to learn about the history and culture of their new home; however, there has been no definitive or in-depth study to determine and to articulate the real economic and social impact of this vital sector.
We like to refer to our museum volunteers as “unsung heros”, and the CFFM, together with the CMA, has a modest program to recognize a volunteer each year from a slate of nominees submitted by the host institutions, the Museum Volunteer Award. Two years ago our winner was Doreen Romanow, from the Manitoba Museum, with 45 years of volunteer service at the museum, and it's estimated that she taught and worked with 60,000 students.
The CFFM welcomes a recent initiative by the Governor General and the Chancellery of Honours to recognize volunteers by awarding those chosen with the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers. The CFFM collaborates with the CMA to identify and nominate museum volunteers for this medal.
Finally, at the international level, the Canadian federation is an active member of the World Federation of Friends of Museums, where it is a member of its council. Reciprocal support between the Canadian and world federations has been strong, with a prominent Canadian, the late Edmund Bovey, being elected president of the world federation in 1984; and the CFFM hosted the WFFM congress in Toronto in 1987. The world federation membership consists of national federations of friends from many countries around the world. As president of the Canadian federation, I will be attending the world federation congress in Madeira in May, and we're hoping to have the council meeting in Montreal next May.
We have some recommendations. Given the close relationship between the CFFM and the Canadian Museums Association and the fact that we represent the same community of museums and heritage institutions, the CFFM is pleased to endorse a number of recommendations submitted by the CMA. In addition, the CFFM recommends the following.
We recommend that the committee undertake a more in-depth and complete study of Canada's museums sector than what is already proposed. We believe there has to be recognition of the economic benefits of museums and heritage institutions, and we call upon the federal government to increase its financial support to museums, especially local and municipal institutions, through its museums assistance program.
I'm just going to insert something here for a moment. Imagine this scenario. In a small museum, a volunteer curator has to put together a grant application for the museums assistance program. I used to do that in the 1970s when it was first introduced. The volunteer has an eight-page Excel spreadsheet to fill in that looks like a small corporation, and then will have to wait for eight to 10 months to get an answer. I think something has to be done there.
Most volunteers in museums are self-trained, with minimal support from paid employees who are busy with their respective duties. The CFFM recommends that funds be made available to provincial museum associations to develop training programs for volunteers, and also recommends the production of training materials at the national level that could be shared across Canada.
The CFFM is very interested in encouraging young people to become involved with heritage institutions. It strongly supports the young Canada works program and urges the government to increase its funding. Small museums depend on whatever summer staff they can afford, and in this regard we recommend that a means test be applied so that some of the smaller museums can receive 100% of financing as opposed to the current 75%.
We recommend that the expertise of the Canadian Conservation Institute be better shared, with more training seminars, more webinars, and more in-depth training sessions, not only at its headquarters in Ottawa but also at locales across Canada, in particular as it applies to the maintenance of artifacts in storage and on display and the identification of risks to museum objects. Many of these tasks are performed by volunteers in local and municipal institutions, with little or no training.
We support the recommendation that the museum insurance and indemnification program be reviewed and expanded to provide immunity for certain types of civil liabilities for those who serve on non-profit boards of directors, as well as to protect volunteers from personal liabilities.
We support the proposal to establish a new council of museums and indigenous people to undertake a two-year review of the status of the various recommendations resulting from a task force struck in 1992 under the title Task Force on Museums and First Peoples. The CFFM is particularly interested in recruiting indigenous youth to participate as volunteers in their local museums.
On behalf of the museum's board, team of volunteers, and myself, I'd like to thank the committee for inviting us to be here today and giving us the opportunity to contribute to your study on the state of Canadian museums.
In our brief, we focused on the relationship between museums and the government and, of course, the responsibility of the government to ensure museums have a guaranteed minimum revenue, this being vital to their survival. As you can tell, this relationship between museums and the government attests to the public responsibility for museums and the role they play. Funding is of paramount concern, because, in order to fulfill their mission and promote their relevance, museums need grants, sponsorship, merchandise, and admission revenue.
The federal government has made significant investments in national museums, but at the expense of the country's other museums, which have had to make do with little to no funding.
Women's museums emerged during the height of the feminist movement, in the 1970s. They tell the story of women against the male-centric or gender-neutral backdrop of history. The first museum of its kind, the Frauenmuseum, the women's museum in Bonn, was created in 1981.
The International Association of Women's Museums, of which I am vice-president, was founded in 2008 in Merano, Italy, and brings together some 80 women's museums around the world.
Women's museums are mirrors of social transformation, showcasing female emancipation models and combatting stereotypes by shining a spotlight on women and their achievements. Spread across four continents, women's museums focus on a variety of themes but have a common mission: telling the stories of women.
Our museum is located in Longueuil. It is Canada's first women's museum. We opened our doors in 2008. We have a permanent exhibit that showcases 400 years of women's history. The exhibit helps visitors discover the relationship between women and history, as we endeavour to reclaim women's stories and achieve historical balance. It exposes an often overlooked part of history: the women who built Quebec and Canada, the silent, ordinary women who are all extraordinary in their own way. I am talking about grandmothers, mothers, wives, daughters—all of us women.
I would like to point out that, during its 10-year existence, our women's museum, the first of its kind in the country, has never received any federal funding, be it for operating costs or status of women projects. That is inconceivable for Canada's women, their heritage, their history, and their stories. The Government of Canada has a special duty towards the women of this country.
What makes us different is our curatorial approach. Like that of other women's museums, our strategy is built on an avant-guard, or experimental, approach to museology. This approach is in step with the dematerialization of male and female heritage, respectively, cultural tourism, and sustainable development. The approach now also takes into account the important issue of human rights and people's advancement towards social change.
This new approach has set the stage for the emergence of institutions such as our women's museum and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, as well as the Empathy Museum, in London, and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, in Chile. These are structurally meaningful museum institutions that have shifted the perspective from “us” to “I” in order to promote empowerment, awareness, and action.
I will now turn to the issue of funding.
As you endeavour to make constructive recommendations that will benefit Canadians, I encourage all of you to visit the women's museum, as well as all the small and medium-sized community-based museums that find dynamic ways to carry out their mission.
The women's museum runs on donations, the support of dedicated volunteers, and private partnerships. We do not receive any government funding whatsoever.
As the museum's founder, I give of my time, money, and expertise. I am also a museologist. I do this for free for the greater good. It is simply unacceptable that the Canadian government, and all other levels of government, have provided no support, neglecting us completely.
The only member of Parliament who has visited the museum is NDP member Pierre Nantel. In fact, I didn't realize he was going to be here today. What a nice surprise. Back on March 19, 2010, former Bloc Québécois MP Jean Dorion, who represented the riding of Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, rose in the House of Commons to describe the grassroots efforts of our women's museum. We received an ovation for our work, but no money came with all of that enthusiasm. It is now 2018, and the government has to take action.
Changing economic, political, and social conditions mean that museum personnel need special training. They need to be well-skilled in management in order to cope with the lack of funding, seek out partnerships and philanthropists, promote social inclusion, and reach out to a broader clientele in order to attract more visitors. The effort to expand their clientele base is also clear in the programming various museums offer. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts recently developed programs focused on well-being and mental health, for instance. The women's museum focuses on promoting the status of women. That work requires funding contributions from a number of departments: Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, Public Safety Canada, and Status of Women Canada. Clearly, institutions like ours may require the support of several organizations.
As for training, it is no secret that the curator's role has become complex, involving much more than collection recovery, preservation, and restoration. The new fundraising reality calls for new skills. We have become entrepreneurs, marketing experts, community managers, public relations officers, and beggars—yes, museums have beggars as well. What about scientific research, professional development, and activities for target populations?
Museology students from the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Université de Montréal, and their work around our curatorial approach, have helped shape the museum's position, perspective, exhibits, impact, and outreach.
The Université de Montréal recently created a research chair position, held by Yves Bergeron, in order to examine museums through the lens of museology, management, and the law. Museums must therefore cope with realities that have nothing to do with their primary role, as defined by the International Council of Museums. Control over their image and the whole issue of financial administration are at play.
These factors cannot be addressed without regard for major societal changes involving economic gender disparity, social inclusion policies, and cultural diversity. Museum governance takes all of this into account.
Turning now to our volunteers, I will say that their support is essential. They play a significant role in what we do. To help keep the museum running, we turn to volunteer centres—such as the Centre de bénévolat de la Rive-Sud—and social media to find volunteers. They are an important resource, but managing volunteers takes time. On top of our already enormous workload, we have to spend time training them.
How do we have an impact, add value, as well as acquire and secure collections that are in the public interest? How do we ensure our volunteers—most of whom are retired—have a constructive and positive experience?
The government must consider how it can provide help and support. What criteria are used to grant funding to museums? What vision of society do certain museums promote? What cultural, social, educational, and historical contribution do they make? Do they put forward an outdated perspective? What counts as an outdated perspective? It's important to think about that. Some museums, regional and others, have, for years, received recurring funding, and yet, no one has ever questioned whether their perspective or contribution is in line with today's reality. The time has come to examine a number of things.
I will now share with you our recommendations.
The first is this. In recognition of the fact that today's visitors demand more and more from their museum experience and that museums must operate in a new climate dominated by the Internet and the virtual world, the committee should clearly define the criteria that determine whether a museum is eligible for funding. It is time to rethink the whole notion of museums as eternal institutions that go on forever. We must not be afraid to go there.
Small and medium-sized museums are the big losers in the current museum universe. Even though we lack their infrastructure and human resources, we still have the same management goal: balancing our budget. When all is said and done, we have to provide a service, secure collections, raise the museum's profile, and put on exhibits.
For example, at the women's museum, our exhibit budget is $4,000, and we have now put on 27 exhibits. We can make that happen with just $4,000 because we recycle everything possible and ask the major museums for help with furniture and museum support. I, myself, am in charge of research and graphic design. Four or five of us, together, provide the communications function for free, working on such things as press releases. By harnessing all of our energy, we manage to save the museum about $45,000 per exhibit.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, gentlemen, for letting Mrs. Ntap have the floor.
I think we have a very interesting panel.
We have with us today museum representatives at the national and provincial levels. We also have with us representatives of the Canadian Federation of Friends of Museums, in other words, museum volunteers. Also here is someone who represents a small, entirely local, museum with national ambitions. That's unusual. Quickly, I'd like to take advantage of the expertise each and everyone of you has.
Mr. Basseches, you talked about endowment funds. It's something that's come up repeatedly, and we will no doubt keep it in mind. Every museum institution could, in fact, benefit from an endowment fund, like symphony orchestras and other such organizations.
Mr. Moulding, you talked about how museums were a special draw for people, generating tourism. The comments of both you and your colleagues, as volunteer representatives, show just how much support can come from people who are passionate about a cause.
That brings me to Mrs. Ntap and the Musée de la Femme. I did indeed have a chance to visit some of the museum's exhibits. I was able to see Mrs. Ntap's determination in action, and her charismatic ability to encourage people to take part in exhibitions and be part of the team, despite often challenging conditions.
Something you said really struck me. It was a proposal I hadn't heard until now. You said that, if the government recognizes the legitimacy of a museum's existence, the government should give that museum a guaranteed minimum revenue. The government shouldn't recognize an institution and then expect it to survive on a wing and a prayer.
Is that indeed what you were saying?
That's entirely correct.
Although I'm very glad to be here today to tell you about our museum, at the end of the day, it is funded by money we, ourselves, put in for the common good. The museum, which is located in Longueuil, has a reserve fund and receives wonderful donations. That said, for the past five years, my family and I have been putting $750 a month towards preserving our common female heritage. That's unthinkable, and something needs to be done.
You said that our museum had national ambitions. I should tell you that our ambitions are actually international. It's straightforward. The Musée de la Femme is recognized internationally. I have taken three paid trips to give talks on the curatorial approach I described earlier, our avant-guard or experimental approach. In fact, I consider that international recognition to be my pay.
The reason I care so much about the museum is that I founded it. If I was just a member of the board, the connection I feel might be different. Because I believe in this initiative, I put my heart and soul into the Musée de la Femme, using precisely those qualities that set women apart. That is how we reach everyone.
Through our curatorial approach, we are able to reach everyone, because the visitor becomes an actor and is no longer a spectator. I like to say that the focus of the museum is the visitor, the public. There is no doubt that the public, the people, and the community make up the foundation on which the museum rests. They are the ones who have the museum's well-being at heart.
We can't always start over again and look for sponsors and partners. Each of us, being born of a mother—biological or otherwise—has that responsibility, the duty to take ownership of institutions that tell the story of women. That is all the more crucial in the current climate. At the museum, we've built a permanent exhibit around the quote “Too many women in too many countries speak the same language—of silence.” Their reflex is to give up the floor, the opportunity to speak. The exhibit is a space for empowerment.
When we ask the ministry of health and social services for funding, people ask us what our museum has to do with health and social services. Most of our visitors are seniors, so we also contribute to social reintegration. In fact, some organizations send individuals who are rehabilitating or doing community service to the museum. For instance, the justice ministry sends us women who have to do community service for unpaid fines. We also put on activities in seniors homes. Our outreach spans generations. Certain aspects of the work are beneficial for memory.
Good morning, everyone.
I speak to you from Victoria, British Columbia. My name is Jack Lohman. I'm the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal British Columbia Museum, but I'm also Vice-President of the Canadian Museums Association.
The mission of the Royal British Columbia Museum was drafted by the citizens of British Columbia back in 1886 when they petitioned the lieutenant-governor that a museum be created. It is the only case in Canada where citizens have demanded a museum, and one of the very few in the world where the patriotic culture of citizenship leads the formation of a museum and its mission. The mission states that the museum should protect, interpret, and preserve the living cultures and landscapes of British Columbia.
In 2003, that mission was reinforced when, through the provincial Museum Act, the museum was merged with the BC Archives. It is as if you merged the ROM with the Archives of Ontario. It is a unique merging of functions that only appears in one other location in our country, and that's in Newfoundland at The Rooms.
The Royal British Columbia Museum is home to some of the most pre-eminent, important, and best-loved artifacts, treasures, and paintings. Indeed, two of its collections are the pre-Confederation Douglas treaties and the Ida Halpern collection, the earliest audio recordings anywhere in the world of indigenous people. These collections are so important that they are being inscribed on the Canada and UNESCO memory of the world registers.
We are open to the public 362 days a year. We welcome 750,000 visitors. Educational and learning outreach touches 35,000 pupils on site. Our learning portal and website is used by over seven million users.
The museum exists as a crown corporation. Each year it receives $11.9 million in support from the province, and it makes up the other $8.7 million itself through admissions revenue, commercial activities, gifts, grants, and investments.
The museum, I should say, is also a research institute that employs 12 scientists and curators, and its first nations and repatriation department is headed up by Lucy Bell of the Haida Nation. It is currently assisting with 75 calls for repatriation and assisting in the repatriation of 778 ancestral remains back to their community.
Allow me to touch and highlight three key issues that directly affect my museum and, by extension, smaller museums across our province here. Each issue, in a way, points to a broader issue, and I offer a recommendation for each.
The first issue is how do we future-proof our smaller museums? How do we provide future generations with sustainable and resilient museums that can serve all our publics better?
As you are aware from my initial remarks, the provincial government funds the Royal British Columbia Museum to protect and provide public access to collections and archives, and to preserve them in perpetuity. Since 2003, successive provincial governments have reduced their support of the museum from 67% 10 years ago to 47% today. That's a reduction in funding of 20%, which when adjusted for inflation, etc., is more like 24% in real terms.
The museum has always responded to such cuts by reducing its back of house, reducing its specialist knowledge, and reducing its specialists who actually know something about the collections in order to keep the front of house, the visitor operations, going on.
My point here is not to moan, but to propose that we become clearer about what income these institutions require, why, and what the alternatives are, so that we do not sleepwalk into the future.
Funding reviews are not something we're familiar with in Canada when it comes to museums. We don't even peer-review our own institutions. We do not even have a robust set of indicators to measure our institutions. We have no baselines to measure their performance. We have standards developed in the 1990s, but no one has ever thought of looking at issues that affect us today when it comes to measuring performance, for example, looking at underused collections.
We need to take an interest in strengthening our museums and challenging them to move with the times. I would recommend that, as an urgent priority, the museums assistance program be overhauled and that we consider creating a series of networked museum hubs; that we move away from this tiered system of museums with nationals at the top, provincials somewhere in the middle, and smaller museums somewhere down at the bottom and create a series of strengthened hubs and strengthened core funding.
Let me turn to a second related issue that affects our museums. It relates to the quality of our leadership and management, which I would argue is insufficient to deliver on the expectations of our publics. I think we have a malaise of averageness that is leaching away able but disillusioned people. For senior museum leaders and for indigenous staff, we need more exposure to external thinking. We need to update leadership practice and create more opportunities for learning from our peers. I would urge government to consider supporting all initiatives for cultural leadership training, and looking at museum training in particular.
My last issue concerns the slow progress being made toward reconciliation. Our museum displays are still riddled with stereotypical display information, displays of indigenous life emphasizing and privileging white history over indigenous history. Repatriation is inadequately funded. Our museum culture is still predominantly white.
In another life I should say that I ran the national museums of South Africa. The government of Mr. Mandela gave me just 12 months to update and clean up all the displays across 15 national museums. The Employment Equity Act insisted that I measure my performance then in terms of how many black people came through the doors and what percentage of black people I was employing. Change happened, and I think Izeko Museums of South Africa now is seen as a pioneer.
All three issues point to one thing that I would urge government to consider, namely a national policy for museums, a framework that outlines why we have museums, what they do for us, the learning, the education, the regeneration, the issues of identity and reconciliation. I would start holding culture ministers across our country accountable for their implementation, if that were possible.
We do need to promote access and inclusion. We do need to champion learning and education, and we do need to ensure excellence in the delivery of all our museum services.
Thank you very much for listening.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I want to thank you, as well as the committee members, for inviting us to introduce l'Odyssée des Bâtisseurs this morning.
I will start with a short history of our institution.
In 2004, the Société d'histoire du Lac-Saint-Jean, which has been in existence since 1942, moved into the municipal building of a company town that has now been merged with Alma. Across from the building is a forested range with an old water tower. On the river next to us, the Isle-Maligne hydroelectric plant, built in the mid 1920s, is still in operation. It is a site that has played an important role in the development of major industry in the region. It is also the starting point for our museum, opened in 2004, l'Odyssée des Bâtisseurs.
Today, in our exhibits and in our interpretive elements on the outdoor range, our mission is to showcase Lac-Saint-Jean's industrial, cultural, built, intangible and natural heritage. Our permanent exhibit focuses on the influence of water on our regional territory, the development of the hydroelectric network, and the challenges involved in water management. Our museum is open year round, but the outdoor range is only accessible during the high tourist season, in the summer.
In addition to its museum, the Société d'histoire du Lac-Saint-Jean has an archive and genealogy program, as well as advisory services in heritage renovation. The management of those three elements helps us develop larger projects, which aim to promote heritage and land, but through different activities. Our museum operation is supported by the town of Alma and, since 2016, by Quebec's department of culture and communications.
We have partnerships with a number of public and private institutions.
For example, the students of the Lac-Saint-Jean school board visit for free thanks to the boards's grant and a Hydro-Québec sponsorship. That partnership is actually causing a lot of envy in our region, since the recent cuts to school budgets have ended educational visits to other museums. However, since the Quebec education program does not focus on local or regional history, our educational involvement is very important for students, as the promotion of history of their community is fundamental to developing their sense of belonging.
In addition, we get regular sponsorships from companies or foundations for special activities and site development. Since we promote hydroelectric heritage, we often receive donations of industrial artifacts from regional businesses.
We are members of the Réseau muséal et patrimonial du Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, which brings together some 15 museum institutions. The region has 276,000 people, 166,000 of whom live in Saguenay and 110,000 in Lac-Saint-Jean.
Regional museums have been working in a network since 1986 in order to share their expertise and development tools.
In order to draw a more regional picture, I will share with you some thoughts that were expressed in briefs submitted during the 2015 regional economic summit and in public consultations on the renewal of Quebec's cultural policy held in 2016.
Most of the region's museum institutions concern history. Exhibit themes are complementary, and we take care to respect everyone's niche, in order to inspire people to visit more than one institution. Since the region developed through agriculture and the development of natural resources for major industry, the areas most often covered by our regional museums are industrial and technological heritage, agriculture, forestry, agrifood, cultural history and science.
We also cover aboriginal history, since the region includes the Mashteuiatsch ilnu community, which has its museum and its historic site. Our museums are managed by professionals with degrees in a variety of higher education areas.
Through heritage conservation and the transmission of knowledge, and because they are the carriers of collective identity, museums are players in regional development. They are also tools for raising awareness and collective understanding, as they are rooted in the life of the communities they belong to. They help the public better understand its roots. They are also key places for welcoming newcomers and for transmitting local culture to them. They help everyone understand the land they live on, frequent or visit.
By fostering a sense of belonging and by stimulating citizen engagement, museums create pride and make community life more dynamic. Because they are a reflection of what is happening in the region, museums promote key economic sectors, in addition to explaining the past, the present and the future.
Museums constitute a major cultural sector in our region. They account for 60 permanent jobs and 240 seasonal job, and their total sales amounted to more than $13 billion in 2014. They generate autonomous revenue through their ticketing, their shop, their service contracts, as well as sponsorships and donations. In addition, most of them are supported by Quebec's department of culture and communications and by municipalities. Nearly all their revenue is reinvested in the local economy.
Over the past few years, the region has been experiencing an increase in tourism. That impacts museums, which are mostly experiencing an increase in visitation. From 2010 to 2015, visits to the region's institutions increased by 16%. Visitors from Quebec account for 85% of our clientele, but visitors from the rest of Canada account for only 4%. Foreign tourists account for about 10% of the visitors. The percentage is higher on the Saguenay side, especially since cruises have been more and more numerous since the Saguenay port of call was built. The vast majority of our tourists visit museums between June and October. Some institutions are actually only open to the public during that period.
In recent years, the Quebec government transferred to the municipalities many responsibilities related to culture and heritage. However, for museums to be seen by the entire regional community as key elements of local vibrancy, local elected representatives and local development stakeholders must first take ownership of them and recognize their value.
In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, tourism stakeholders have decided to focus on the draw of the landscape and nature to attract a variety of clientele. The aim of the adventure tourism and ecotourism niche of excellence is to position the region as a four-season tourist destination. However, in this context, museums are struggling to hold their head above water, and history and heritage are rarely mentioned by stakeholders.
In a marketing study carried out in 2017 solely on Lac-Saint-Jean museums—so excluding Saguenay—we noted that regional stakeholders were mostly satisfied with what was available at museums in terms of diversity and quality, but that they were not very familiar with them and considered them complementary to major attractions. In other words, they did not consider them to be tourist attractions.
So we are suffering from a lack of visibility among tourist stakeholders and other regional decision-makers. They are all very happy to have us, but do not really grasp the extent of our potential in terms of tourism, social matters and identity.
Over the past few years, various changes, including the review of funding programs and the disappearance of some regional consultation spaces, have weakened the region's museum institutions.
For visits to museums to continue, we need to constantly reinvent ourselves. Newness is a permanent challenge for us. Few museums in the region can perform all museum functions optimally, since they require significant human and financial resources. With limited resources, it is difficult to ensure the sustainability of heritage collections and goods while updating the tourism supply and offering new things every year.
In addition, being located in a region far from major centres makes it difficult to offer certain activities. Training, skills development or networking activities almost always require trips of a few days, involving considerable costs, and it is difficult to convince our associations to provide activities locally.
It is also less possible for us to meet with department officials. Of course, distance is much less of an obstacle than it used to be, thanks to digital technologies, but it still prevents us from speaking to decision makers as much as our colleagues from Montreal and Quebec City, for example.
The funding we are currently receiving from the federal government to support our activities helps us hire our summer guides and sometimes young professionals for a few months. It also helps institutions that have space for temporary exhibits—not all of them have the space—to develop and host travelling exhibits. They make it possible to develop special projects based on calls for projects and, finally, to maintain our infrastructure.
The Department of Canadian Heritage is often our first confirmed financial partner for a project we are relying on to seek out additional funding from public or private sources. So the support is greatly appreciated. Our experiences with the department are always positive.
However, the federal support does not enable us to maintain our regular activities, develop our expertise or strengthen our anchorage in the community.
We feel that programs that encourage working in partnership, including the strategic initiatives component, are a very interesting option for museums. That kind of work improves our clout with partners. Common projects also help share expertise and achieve complementarity. In addition, they help save money and break the isolation of museum professionals.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean colleague presented a very accurate picture of the reality for the institutions in our region, and spoke at length about their importance. For my part, I am going to present our museum, the Louis-Hémon Museum, which is located in Péribonka of the north shore of Lac Saint-Jean. Péribonka is a small municipality of about 500 residents. It has for several years counted on tourism to diversify its economy, which depends on potato cultivation.
The Museum was founded in 1938, which makes it the oldest museum in the region. It was created to commemorate the Breton author Louis Hémon. When he visited the region in 1912 and 1913, he was inspired by Péribonka and the Bédard family with whom he stayed in the summer of 1912 and wrote his novel Maria Chapdelaine. The book was very popular in France and in Quebec, following its publication in France in 1921, and it was then translated into about 20 languages and thus went around the world. It is a tragic love story, and it realistically depicts the life of colonial settlers in the beginning of the 20th century, and it contributed to making our area, and Quebec, known the world over. From its inception, the museum occupied the Samuel-Bédard house, where Louis Hémon stayed, which is depicted in the novel, as are the living conditions of the settlers at the time.
The Museum has, of course, evolved and now includes two buildings.
The first is the contemporary pavilion which houses a permanent exhibition entitled Maria Chapdelaine, vérités et mensonges, and relates the incredible journey the Maria Chapdelaine novel, as well as the life story of author Louis Hémon, and the consequences of the popularity of his work, which continues to be studied today. In that same building, every year we present a new temporary or travelling exhibition.
The second building is, of course, the Samuel-Bédard house, of which I spoke, which is hosted and receives visitors during the summer. This historic house is heritage-listed by the Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec under the Cultural Heritage Act.
To complete our programming, we offer various activities and an educational program which aligns with our mission. Our mission has three parts. The first part is to preserve and transmit the quest of Louis Hémon to future generations. The second is to promote the country of Maria Chapdelaine. Since our museum is the only one in the RCM, it has an important role to play in preserving and showcasing this area. The third part is to offer a creative space that can facilitate discussions and favours the spoken word, and reading and writing in the French language.
To our knowledge, our museum is the only one in Quebec which exploits a literary theme. Obviously, it is based on the Maria Chapdelaine novel; this approach is interesting, but is perceived as being more urban than rural.
The Louis-Hémon Museum is recognized and supported financially by the Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec. For its operations, the Museum counts on the financial support of the municipality of Péribonka, and it is considered a supra-local infrastructure by the Maria-Chapdelaine RCM, which recognizes its unique character in our region.
For its summer jobs, the museum benefits from assistance from the Canada Summer Jobs and Young Canada Works initiatives of the Government of Canada. Over the past five years, the museum also received support from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund and the Exhibition Circulation Fund of the Museums Assistance Program.
After the revision of the Quebec museums assistance program, the Aide au fonctionnement pour les institutions muséales program of the Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec, the Louis-Hémon Museum, just like 33 other Quebec institutions, experienced a decline in its financial assistance; we lost close to $30,000 over three years, out of a total yearly operational budget of $230,000. That loss, which may worsen over the next triennial cycle, presents a considerable challenge to our institution, whose resources were already quite limited.
The financial assistance from the municipality of Péribonka is precious, but a small municipality of 500 residents clearly does not have the same financial resources as a larger city to sustain its cultural and heritage environment.
In addition, attendance has stagnated for several years, as the annual number of visitors to the museum has not gone beyond 2,500. A study carried out by our region's tourist association in 2016 showed that the northern road around the lake, where our museum is located, was the one that is used the least by tourists who visit the area.
Of course, the low population numbers in our sector also constitute a considerable challenge for attendance, and that is also a challenge when it comes to looking for private sponsorship and donations, which are more difficult to find in small rural areas. We think that there is real benefit in working with other museum institutions of the area on that front and in pooling our efforts to attract more potential sponsorships, and thus be able to find ways of increasing our sources of private funding.
As for human resources, it is difficult to find people to occupy the more specialized positions. Most of this training is given in large centres, and there are very few young people who want to experience rural life, and those who do are generally looking for a one-time temporary experience, which does not provide stability for our institution. Moreover, small museums like ours have trouble offering competitive salaries and working conditions. For instance, in our case, we do not provide any insurance to our employees, and that includes the executive director.
The seasonal nature of several frontline jobs is another problem. We can guarantee our seasonal employees between 17 and 20 weeks of work a year. Even with their accumulated hours, it's difficult for them to qualify for employment insurance, and when they do, they can't receive benefits to cover the rest of the year, which of course makes it difficult for us to recruit.
Given the fragility and precariousness of our financial and human resources, it is difficult for us to fully discharge our conservation mandate, and our mandate to showcase, do outreach and educate. I consider that we really perform miracles with the few resources we do have, but it is currently impossible for us to renew what we offer in any meaningful way so as to increase the number of visitors to our institution.
In addition, maintaining our buildings, including the Samuel-Bédard house, is a constant challenge. Since its construction in 1986, the contemporary building has not had any major repairs, and today there are problems with water leakage, air conditioning and heating. We made the decision recently to pack up our collection objects in order to protect them against humidity in the museum reserve, as it is difficult to control that environment. In addition, last year we had to make the decision to close one of our buildings permanently because it was in an advanced state of decrepitude.
As you have heard, our little institution is facing many challenges. Despite all of the difficulties, we are sure that our institution has its place in our milieu and that it plays an important role in the culture and heritage of the region. Fortunately, we have the good fortune of being able to count on the crucial support of the elected representatives of the Maria-Chapdelaine RCM.
In order to ensure a better future and the sustainability of our institution, we are currently working in close co-operation with the Péribonka municipality on an important development project for which we have high hopes. This is an innovative and defining project for our municipality which will give us leverage to attract more tourists, in addition to maintaining services for the community, consolidating the Louis-Hémon Museum and preserving the parish church.
In summary, the project consists in giving the municipality of Péribonka a new city hall with spaces that will be shared by the museum and other community organizations. The museum is currently six kilometres away from the village, and this would allow us to redeploy it in the core of the village, and its permanent exhibition would be set up in the Péribonka church. This would echo the Maria Chapdelaine novel, which actually begins on the steps of the Péribonka church.
To us, the two options are clear: either this project comes to fruition and we survive, or we maintain the status quo and we close.
And in closing, I would like to point out that I share my colleague's ideas concerning the assistance and support the Canadian government can offer regional museums.
Thank you for your attention.
In fact, the prize we received in 2012 was in connection with the renewal of our permanent exhibition, and our multimedia film, which was projected on the water tower outside.
As for our surpluses, they were due to the fact that in 2016, we were eligible for the renewal of a subsidy from the Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec. Since the early 2000s, there had been a provincial moratorium on operational subsidies. Since our institution was created into 2004, we had not had the opportunity of accessing that funding before. In 2016, the department revised its eligibility criteria and provided more objective funding criteria. At that point, out of 90 museums that did not receive support, six new museums became eligible for operational subsidies. On the other hand, 21 Quebec museums lost their funding, and as Ms. Perron was saying, 33 museums had their funding reduced.
Our museum was among the six lucky ones that finally received an operational subsidy. This was a recognition of our work. Since it was announced in August 2016, the tourist season was almost over. In fact, we prepare our tourist seasons from January to April. Since we received the funding in August, this explains the large surplus we had in 2016.
This financial support will allow us to breathe a little easier over the next years. Previously, we kept the museum going without operational subsidies from the department. So, our exhibitions were a little dated. Thanks to the operational subsidy, we were able to join the 21st century, and this allows us to have better museography.
We also have a role to play as cultural mediator. We were not always able to play that role because we did not have enough employees. Now, we provide more activities, for children, for instance, but we also have some intergenerational projects. All of that has allowed us to be more dynamic.
You asked me if our recipe could be exported. In our case, it's simple: we had access to new financial support, which allowed us to create new projects.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses who are here today.
I just want to read our motion:
||That the Committee undertake a study to review the state of Canadian museums, with a focus on local and community museums as opposed to major national or provincial museums. That the committee report the findings to the House and...this motion be studied....
We have so much time and yet almost all of our witnesses have come from large provincial museums, large or major urban museums, with just a very small portion from smaller museums, the museums federation, such as from the Maritimes. I'm glad to see the witnesses we have here today.
To me, I really see two studies here. We can't compare the small museums, like those represented by two witnesses here, with the Royal British Columbia Museum, which I've been to many times. I appreciate what you do there. I'm mostly aware of the museums in the province of British Columbia, and I'll just use a comparison. In a sense, the Royal British Columbia Museum in no way compares to, say, the museums at Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, or Fort Nelson, which attract thousands of visitors each year who are travelling through on the Alaska Highway.
I think we need to focus on where we're supposed to be, and we're spreading it out a lot further.
To Mr. Lohman, I noticed that the RBCM receives $11.86 million in funding from the B.C. government, and you have a number of other funding methods. Do you assist in training programs or providing assistance to the smaller museums, such as Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, the Chilcotin museum, and so on? Does any of your money from the province go there?