18 August 2015

#11 Fighting History

For some people, history is all about the battles that were fought, the wars that were won or lost. While humanity has been particularly good at the whole conflict thing, that has not been the totality of our existence.

Canada has a War Museum. Canada used to have a Museum of Civilization, but our buddy Steve decided to rename it and change its focus. The Canadian Museum of History, with plenty of room for the glorious military part of that, no doubt. Just another part of a legacy that has attempted (in vain, we can hope) to instill a certain level of militarism in the Canadian psyche. At a cost of $500 million.

Oh, and the other part of history that many might agree on is that it needs to be accurate and not misleading. Oh yes, the winners of a conflict get to write the accounts of it, lessening their culpability and emphasizing that of their opponents, but there is generally some level of evidence to support the stories presented and their contexts.

Imagine my revulsion, then, when I visited the Citadel in Québec City recently. This is a fortress built by the British to protect the city against attacks coming from our neighbours to the south. Well, in the main museum part that we wandered through before our guided tour of the facility, a giant exhibition on wars in which Canadians have been involved, none concerning the Citadel, where not a single cannon has ever been fired in anger.

And there, in a display case in the midst of all of this, a blue burka. The government not seeking to provoke islamophobia or anything has put a burka in what has become another glorification of war, likely to show who the enemy is. And in case you, too, are wondering what a burka has to do with the Citadel in Québec City, let me add that in another small museum on the premises — this one intended to show life in what became a small military prison — another burka! Now we all know why the Citadel was built: to protect Québec City from an attack by the Taliban!

History is bigger than war, and our museums to the accomplishments of humans need to show the totality of that work.

Further reading here

You say potato
Tories say a war was fought
on soil it grew in

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