Case Study: National Museum Policies Timeline, 1970s

Last updated: October 18, 2021

As part of the Dawson City Museum Project, I am creating timelines of the Museum’s development in relation to government policy and community action (1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s).

The 1970s were significant in the development of an explicit community museum policy and a significant implicit community museum policy (student employment policy) at the federal level. As such, I am considering these timelines separately and with greater detail. These timelines are a work in progress – please let me know if you think anything important is missing!

Explicit Museum Policy

  • 1970:

    June: Cabinet approved a cultural policy.

    August – September: The Secretary of State, Gérard Pelletier, represented Canada at the UNESCO Intergovernmental Conference in Venice, studying cultural policies.

    There was wide agreement, however, on two essential tasks that governments must take responsibility for: the adequate financing and proper planning of cultural institutions and programs.

    Final Report: Venice, 24 August – 2 September 1970

    September: The Canada Conference of the Arts held a National Conference on Cultural Policy.

    Screenshot of the Conference schedule, showing Pelletier's talk titled "The Development of a Cultural Policy in Canada"
    Screenshot of the Conference schedule, showing Pelletier’s talk.

    Pelletier, spoke at the Conference about the federal cultural policy (objectives = democratization, decentralization, pluralism, federal-provincial cooperation and international cooperation). He received many requests to consult on policy, leading to planned consultations (Pelletier 1971; Source).

  • 1971:

    February: Cabinet approved Pelletier’s proposed museum policy in principle. The policy was most concerned with circulating the National Museum’s collections (Privy Council’s Office, 1971).

    Efforts to bring collections which constitute part of the national heritage to the notice of the general public have been largely inadequate. The museums, including the National Museums, tend to emphasize the preservation of this heritage to the neglect of the public. For this reason, priority must be given, at least temporarily, to relations between the museums and the public.

    Cabinet Document No. 27-71; Translated Summary of the memorandum to cabinet: Cultural policy with regard to museums and the national heritage

    February 14-16: Pelletier held a conference on the role of museums in the 1970s – CONSULTATION I: Museums 70+ Conference.

    October: The Canadian Museums Association (CMA) circulated excerpts from Pelletier’s presentation at CONSULTATION I to the museum community through the Gazette with the CMA’s responding brief.

  • 1972:

    March 28: Pelletier announced a National Museums Policy (objectives: democratization and decentralization), leading to the:

    • Museums Assistance Program
    • Canadian Conservation Institute
    • National Inventory (now the Canadian Heritage Information Network) 
    • Gerard Pelletier looking at an artifact
    • A black and white photo of men, including Gerard Pelletier, looking at an ate fact at the

    April: The CMA circulated the policy in their Gazette.

  • 1973: The National Museum Policy: A Program for Canadian Museums provided a comprehensive description of the new policy’s components:

    • Associate Museums: A network of museums meeting certain standards and engaged in programming beyond their institution (e.g., demonstrating “regional initiative”).
    The Royal Ontario Museum was an associate museum in Ontario (copyright information)
    • Special Grants: A fund to help museums achieve higher standards so they can receive better exhibits.
    • Exhibition Centres: Capital funding to help institutions meet standards so they can become National Exhibition Centres, displaying the National Museums’ collections.
    • Training Assistance: Funding to increase the number of trained individuals.
    • National Loan Collection: Collection of materials designed for public use in non museum situations.
    • Emergency Purchase Fund: A fund to purchase nationally significant materials at risk of being sold abroad.
    • Canadian Conservation Institute: They planned five regional conservation laboratories with headquarters in Ottawa.
    • National Inventory of Collections: A computerized data bank of all major collections.
    • Catalogue Assistance: Support to help a museum prepare for eventual inclusion in the inventory.
    Image of an article titled Museumobiles parking where the people are. There are images of the museumobiles at the bottom.
    A National Museums of Canada poster about the Museumobiles program (copyright information)
    • Museumobiles: Traveling museums on wheels from the National Museums.
  • 1975: International Programme created to facilitate international exchanges of exhibitions.

  • 1978: As part of austerity measures, the National Museums of Canada budget receives a significant budget cut (OMA 1978/1979).

Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

The Canadian Conservation Institute originated as the National Conservation Research Laboratory within the National Gallery of Canada in the 1960s.

  • 1972: The National Conservation Research Laboratory split from the National Gallery of Canada and becomes the Canadian Conservation Institute (source).

    The Director of the CCI went on a recruiting campaign in Europe to find specialist staff (Stolow 1973).

  • 1973: The Pacific Conservation Centre was established in Vancouver with three conservators specializing in archaeology/ethnology, works of art on paper, and paintings.

    Picture of an article about the regional lab in BC.
    The Province (Vancouver, BC), January 18, 1974. p. 29.

    The Conservator Training Program was established to increase the number of conservators in Canada.

    The CCI conduced a survey of museums in the Atlantic provinces, finding a significant need for conservation work. They also conducted a survey in British Columbia, finding the conservation needs great and urgent (CCI 1976).

    The CCI offered scientific services through the Conservation Research Division at Headquarters, including (Sebra 1973):

    • Consultative Services
    • Analytical Services
    • Scanning Electron Microscope
  • 1974:

    June: The Atlantic regional laboratory was established in Moncton with conservators specializing in fine arts, paper conservation or attracts. There were plans to open a larger facility at the local university by 1978 (CCI 1976).

    The CCI’s training program began.

    The Province (Vancouver, BC), June 1, 1974, p. 1.
  • 1975: The CCI created an exhibition of recently restored works (Duncan 1975).

    Picture of a job advertisement
    The Gazette, August 12, 1975, p. 27.

    The CCI began searching for directors for regional labs in Ontario and Quebec.

  • 1976: Brian Arthur was hired as the Director and he implements changes in the organization (Click here for a podcast interview with Arthur from CCI and CHIN: In Our Own Words).

    Arthur reorganizes the CCI to make a better use of available resource through the integration of conservation research and services (CCI 1976).

    The CCI opened a permanent exhibition – A Future for our Past (Walker 1976).

  • 1977: A small facility opened in Quebec.

    The Pacific Conservation Centre released a report about the poor condition of museums in BC and Yukon. If you have access to this report – contact me! I would like to read it 🙂

    A mobile conservation services was proposed to the NMC’s Board of Trustees, but postponed due to a lack of resources (McCawley and Ward 1980).

  • 1979: The Regional Centers closed following financial cuts to the CCI (McCawley and Ward 1980).

    The NMC commissioned Anne Lambert to study the conservation needs across what is now known as Canada (Mitchols 1979).

    The Silver Lining: A Plan for the Future is released.

    Mobile Labs start as a 2.5 month pilot project (Arthur 1980). The project is seen as an “unqualified success” (OMA 1979/1980).

    The CCI began lending an Environment Monitoring Kit for two to three week periods (Lafountaine 1980).

Museums Assistance Program (MAP)

  • 1972: In its first year, organizations could apply for funding in the following categories (sourcean example of newsletters providing great information):

    • Associate Museums
    Picture of the description of the associate Museum program
    Screenshot of The Grande New Dawson and Hind Quarterly Epistle. Vol No. 4, September 1972 (source)
    • Special Grants: A $1.5 million fund to allow smaller museums to upgrade their staff and facilities so they may become eligible to be an associate museum.
    • National Exhibition Centre: A $750,000 fund for Centres that did not have their own collections but could form a complimentary network to the associate museums in order to display exhibitions from the National Museums.
    • Catalogue Assistance: A $300,000 fund for organizations that want to catalogue their collections using procedures suggested for the National Inventory.
    • Training Assistance: A $500,000 fund to increase the number of trained personelle in what is now known as Canada.
    • Emergency Purchase Fund: A $1 million dollar fund so museums can purchase objects of national significance threatened with sales to other countries.
    • Canadian Conservation Institute: While it was being established, there was a $1.65 million fund for the restoration of works in urgent need of attention.
  • 1974: Funding provided in the following categories (Morrison 1974):

    Core funding:

    • Associate Museums

    Project funding:

    • Special Grants
    • National Exhibition Centres (for renovations and additions)
    • Training Assistance
    • Cataloguing Assistance
    • Emergency Fund
  • 1975: The Consultative Committee (formed to advise the NMC on the National Museum Policy’s financial assistance) engages in a revision of the financial programs (Proonovost 1975)

    The application approval process is updated with greater emphasis on provincial consultation (Nichols 1979).

    They develop a new structure described as follows (source):

    • Core-funding assistance: Grants of up to $3.3 million to institutions already designated as Associate Museums or National Exhibition Centres.
      • Associate Museums
      • National Exhibition Centres
    • Capital Assistance Program: Financial support and technical assistance for capital projects that will enable public programming or increase access to cultural heritage.
    • Special Activities Assistance Program: This continued to be a catch all kind of program “designed to provide financial, informational and coordinative assistance to non-profit organizations seeking to undertake specifically defined projects of a special, experimental, innovative, managerial, or informational nature that meet the intent and requirements of the Nation Museum Policy” (Source, 2).
    • Training Assistance
  • 1978: The National Museums Corporation (NMC) recommends the establishment of a specialized museums program because specialized collections were not receiving “satisfactory attention” (OMA 1978).

    The NMC engaged in consultation on the Associate Museums Programme because (NMC 1978):

    • After six years, a real network still did not exist.
    • There was no clear articulation of Associate Museum’s purpose, role and responsibilities within the network.
    • Designated institutions were diverse with little standardization.
    • Federal vs. provincial responsibilities were unclear.

    The Council of Associate Museum Directors approved the resulting “Preliminary Plan for the Associate Museum Programme” in October and then by the National Museums Corporation’s Board of Trusties in December (Clark, 1979).

    At this time, MAP included both core (operational) and project funding:

    Core Funding Assistance:

    • Associate Museums
    • National Exhibition Centres

    Project funding:

    • Capital Assistance
    • Special Activities Assistance
    • Training Assistance
    • Registration Assistance

Implicit Museum Policy – Employment Programs

Job programs in what is now known as Canada have typically aimed to: reduce cyclical unemployment, target a disadvantaged labour force (e.g., youth), relieve regional or structural unemployment, and produce something or provide a service of social value (Roy and Wong 2000). Museums are often well positioned to take advantage of these programs because they generally have a significant need for additional human resources to complete even basic museum activities, which arguably are of social value.

  • 1970s: Baby boomers were entering the workforce looking for jobs, causing an increase in the youth unemployment rate (Roy and Wong 2000).

  • 1971: The federal government establishes the Local Initiatives Program (LIP) to create jobs with an emphasis on areas where de-industrialization caused high unemployment (source). Originally, half of the 100 million budget was allocated to fund private projects working toward better communities. The other half was allocated to municipal government projects in consultation with provinces. Additional funding went to private projects, increasing the budget to about $180 million (Blake 1976).

  • 1972: LIP begins with a $85 million budget, but once again there are increases that raise the total expenditures to around $235 million (Blake 1976).

    LIP is criticized as part of the 1972 election (Blake 1976).

  • 1974: The LIP budget is reduced to $73 million (Blake 1976) and then continues to experience cuts.

  • 1976: Employment Strategy announced (Keck 1995)

  • 1977: LIP is terminated (with a 47 million budget in 1977-1978 – source).

    The federal government announces Canada Works and Young Canada Works to create jobs with a budget of $300 million (source). The main difference was YCW targeted youth with summer jobs and CW provided up to 52 weeks, targeting areas of high unemployment (Roy and Wong 2000).

  • 1979: The 1979-1980 Canada Works program restricted to provinces where unemployment was 9% or greater (OMA 1979a)


I have a feeling there is a lot missing! What else would you add? Is there an area you think needs more information?


Arthur, Brian. 1980, January. “CCI Mobile Laboratory Service.” F2091 15 B253022 CCI OAC. Archives of Ontario.

Blake, Donald. 1976. “LIP and Partisanship: An Analysis of the Local Initiatives Program.” Canadian Public Policy. Vol. 2 (2): 17-32.

CCI. 1976. The Journal of the Canadian Conservation Institute. Vol. 1.

Clark, Ian. 1979, January. “Letter to Robert Johnson.” Rg47-50_1 NMC programme correspondence. Archives of Ontario.

CMA. 1978, September. “Ottawa Report: Museum Assistance Programmes.” Museogramme. Vol. 6(6): 1.

Duncan, Elizabeth. 1975, July. “Swing and Hear a diverse exhibit.” The Ottawa Citizen. p. 63.

Lafontaine, Raymond H. “Monitoring Kit: Environmental Controls Save Artifacts.” The Journal of the Canadian Conservation Institute. Vol 4: 47-48.

McCawley, J.C. and Ward, P.R. 1980. “Regional Services: “helping museums help themselves.”” CCI: The Journal of the Canadian Conservation Institute. 4: 14-19.

Mitchols, Dann. 1979, May 23. Letter to John McAvity. F2091 15 B253022 NMC correspondence. Archives of Ontario.

Morrison, Barry. 1974. “The National Museum Policy.” Ontario Museum Association Newsletter Vol. 3 (3): 3 – 4.

Nichols, R. W. 1979, March. “Letter to Douglas Wright.” Rg47-50_1 NMC programme correspondence. Archives of Ontario.

NMC. 1978. “Towards a New Policy for the Major Museums in Canada.” F2091 15 B253022 associate museums program. Archives of Ontario.

OMA. 1978, April May. “Report Recommends New Specialized Museums in Ontario.” Currently Vol. 2(2): 1.

OMA. 1978/1979, December January. “National Museums Cut by $5 Million.” Currently Vol. 2(6): 1.

OMA. 1979a, October November. “Federal Employment Grants Cut.” Currently Vol. 3(5).

OMA. 1979b, February March. “Young Canada Works Grants.” Currently Vol. 3(1): 1.

OMA 1979/1980, December January. “First Mobile Lab – An Unqualified Success.” Currently Vol. 3(6).

Pelletier, Gerald. 1971, February. “Museums and the National Heritage: A Cultural Policy.” CCA MG28 I189 Vol 24 consultationI museums 70+ (file one). Library and Archives Canada.

Privy Council’s Office. 1971. Cultural Policy with Regard to Museums and the National Heritage. RG2, Privy Council Office, Series A-5-a, Volume 6381 Access Code: 90. 

Pronovost, Pierre. 1975, April 17. Circular Letter. F2091 15 B253022 NMC correspondence. Archives of Ontario.

Sebra, K. 1973, October. “Scientific Services.” Newsletter 1: 4.

Stolow, N. 1973, April 3. Report of the Director. RG47-51 B328429 canadian conservation institute. Archives of Ontario.

Walker, Kathleen. 1976, December 8. “Canadian Conservation Institute: An Interesting Exhibit Details Various Phases of Service and Operation.” The Ottawa Citizen. p. 99.

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