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A world inside: a 150-year history of the Canadian Museum of Civilization [book review] Laszlo, Krisztina 2006

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210 Archivaria 62 Nelson Mandela legacy and expanding the already broad Mandela Archive is a key motivation for the publication of this volume. Great detail is provided about the acquisition of over thirty photographs taken at the prison in 1977, of which one, “A Prisoner Working in the Garden,” is the cover image and focal point of the work. The authors point out that if these photographs had never surfaced (they were suppressed from publication by contemporary prison leg- islation) then the Centre would never have known that there was film footage held by the South African Broadcasting Corporation following the “chance recollection” of the archivist who remembered noticing canisters marked “Robben Island.” No doubt the authors hope that by publicizing the Mandela Archive additional acquisitions might be made. By rendering a selection of the official records available to the public and emphasizing the need for remembering and understanding, the authors push the discovery of records and buried memories even further. The book is a call to arms. Prisoner in the Garden is fascinating and thought provoking on many lev- els. The reproduction of the documents is exquisite, unbelievably powerful in their plainness and simplicity. To see Mandela’s hand-written notes, scribbled from the prisoner’s dock, or President F.W. de Klerk’s telegram releasing him from prison is to bear witness to both the official and private records that make up Mandela’s story. But the over-arching emphasis of the book on the idea of a Mandela Archive, the act of remembering and creating a legacy, leads to confusion. Mandela did not write letters, or keep notebooks, or fight his battles for equality and justice just to create an archive. Mandela’s “Archive” (no matter how broadly or narrowly it is defined) is the result of these battles, their natural fall-out, not their object. The authors of Prisoner in the Garden would do a greater service to the concept of archives and to the very legacy they are trying to perpetuate if they let the records speak for them- selves. Because the records do. Loudly. Laura Madokoro Library and Archives Canada A World Inside: A 150-year History of the Canadian Museum of Civiliza- tion. CHRISTY VODDEN and IAN DYCK. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, 2006. 103 p. ISBN 0-660-19558-5. If one is looking for a straightforward and non-critical timeline of the history of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC), then A World Inside would prove adequate. The authors trace the roots of the museum to the Geological Survey of Canada and its development over the next 150 years, to its current incarnation. The book is divided into sections covering the institution’s earli- est decades and the visionaries who were responsible for driving its collecting Book Reviews 211 from one based on geological specimens to those relating to human habitation and the ethnology of Canada’s indigenous peoples. It moves on to the period surrounding both world wars, through the boom years of the 1950s, Canada’s build-up to its Centennial in 1967 and developments through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. In the meantime it also brings up political events concurrent to the museum’s progress, the institution’s changing names, world events, the development of anthropology in Canada, the major players working for the museum (including its directors, anthropologists, and other relevant individu- als), and finally ending with a lengthy statement regarding the future vision of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and its role as a national cultural icon. It does this in a total of 103 pages (less if you exclude title pages, illustrations, acknowledgements, index, and other end matter). Given the length of this publication and all it sets out to accomplish, there is little room for the authors to engage critically with any of the activities under- taken by the CMC in its history. To be fair, Vodden and Dyck were commis- sioned to produce this work to commemorate the museum’s 150th anniversary by the institution itself, and therefore the goal of this volume is to celebrate the museum and its achievements. However, some engagement with any of the many issues surrounding the CMC would have made for more compelling reading. Instead we get at most a few sentences to sum up major issues. Repa- triation of artefacts to Canada’s First Nations, for example, is covered by these words: “... the Museum of Man had a good record of being proactive in this regard and of responding to specific requests. In 1978, the Museum returned a major ethnological collection of potlatch regalia, which it had held since 1922, to the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) of British Columbia” (p. 70). In regard to the museum’s official name change in 1968 to the National Museum of Man, they state: “given the rising feminist tide at the time, the museum’s new name became controversial almost immediately” (p. 62). Other issues do not even warrant a sentence. There is nothing on the manner in which the museum has acquired the objects it holds in its collection, or the practices of the anthropol- ogists in its employ. Were objects acquired fairly? Were collecting practices ethical? The brief discussion of the return of potlatch regalia, quoted above, is a glaring example of a missed opportunity to examine the practice of the acquisition of objects from indigenous groups.1 In fact, the only reference to this topic is a mention of problems relating to storage given that the collec- tions were “growing at a breathtaking pace” (p. 32). 1 These goods were confiscated by government officials following a potlatch given by Dan Cran- mer on Village Island, in 1921 when the potlatch was illegal in Canada. If a group voluntarily gave up their potlatch paraphernalia, individuals arrested for participating in the event would receive suspended or reduced sentences. The goods were seized, put on display and eventually distributed to a number of museums in Canada, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization (then known as the Victoria Memorial Museum). 212 Archivaria 62 Other errors are more disturbing. A caption accompanying an image of a Tahltan hunting bag and bird amulet attribute these objects as originating from Elgin County, Ontario. The Tahltan First Nation’s traditional territory is in Northern British Columbia. Perhaps Elgin County was the home of the collec- tor from whom the objects were purchased? This is unclear based on the text, and unless one knew for certain who the Tahltan people are, one would be left with the impression that they originate from Ontario. This is perhaps a small matter of mislabelling, but considering that the Canadian Museum of Civiliza- tion has positioned itself as one of the leading cultural institutions in Canada, and as a leader in the field of anthropology, they, if anyone, should be able to correctly distinguish the territories with which Canada’s First Nations identify. Similarly confusing is the lack of attribution of other illustrations of First Nations objects. For example, items from the Powell collection of Pacific Coast objects are identified merely as a “statue,” a “hat,” and a “mask” (p. 16). Surely these objects could be linked to the particular society that created them, considering that the Northwest Coast contains a significantly large number of culturally distinct groups (Haida, Nuu-chah-nulth, Tsimshian, and Musqueam to name only a few). Finally, the most glaring omission of all from the point of view of the archi- vists reading this review is that this book does not clearly reveal that the Cana- dian Museum of Civilization has an archive. We are given clues that there exists interesting, historically relevant, and extensive documentary sources throughout the text, but these hints are not developed or highlighted. For example, anthropologists reading this history of the CMC would be intrigued by mention of George Dawson, hired in 1875 and one of the first to undertake anthropological work in Canada. Dawson, according to the authors, “made a significant contribution to the emerging field of anthropology with written and photographic records of West Coast Aboriginal communities, dating back to the 1870s” (p. 17). Linguists would be similarly excited by the first official staff anthropologist Edward Sapir and his work with the Nuu-chah-nulth between 1913 and 1916. During this time Sapir conducted interviews with members of the community and focused on gathering reliable information on their culture and language, only some of which have been published. Where are Sapir’s unpublished records? Where are George Dawson’s documents and photographs? For that matter, where are the records of the other important anthropologists mentioned throughout the text and the photographs, audio recordings, and films that are also referenced, but not cited? Considering the breadth and scope of the museum’s archival holdings and their relevance to a diverse range of scholars, including members of indige- nous communities, a mention of the archives’ existence in the main body of the work would have done much to highlight the relevance of the Canadian Museum of Civilization as an institution that has more to offer Canadians than its exhibitions. In fact, the sole reference to the archives can be found in the Book Reviews 213 acknowledgements where the authors list their sources (but not the institutions that care for them) and indicate “published and unpublished historical docu- ments and correspondence were major sources (a draft manuscript with com- plete references is on file in the CMC Archives)” (p. 94). One would think that the authors’ use of unpublished sources was so invaluable to the compilation of an institutional history that they would understand the importance of archi- val materials and would realize the benefit of highlighting the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s archive as one of its significant assets. Unfortu- nately, however, in this case the archive did not make the cut. Krisztina Laszlo Museum of Anthropology, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery University of British Columbia Political Pressure and the Archival Record. MARGARET PROCTER, MICHAEL COOK, CAROLINE WILLIAMS, eds. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2005. 345 p. ISBN 1-931666-15-6. This book consists of twenty of the papers presented at a conference of the same name held in Liverpool in July 2003. What does the phrase “political pressure” bring to mind? To an archivist, it may summon up bad things such as deliberate destruction of documents, refusal to deposit records in the archives, practices that avoid creating records in the first place, or instruc- tions from the higher-ups to administer access inequitably. Such activities fall within what the editors call “the sudden, deliberate, and blatant school of political pressure” (x). However, the range of topics addressed in this vol- ume goes well beyond that. Even seemingly beneficial shifts in policy, such as the current Labour government’s initiative to modernize British govern- ment services, in part by mandating electronic records management in all government departments, is also political pressure of a sort that will have an enormous impact on the work of record-keepers and archivists. Although the editors are somewhat apologetic about the time lag between the conference and the publication of the volume, it is not at all dated. While it is true that shocking tales of record-keeping malfeasance have surfaced more recently (and continue to do so), the volume goes beyond the journalistic reports to provide some perspective and a more measured commentary on an aggrega- tion of such situations. While you could read this book straight through, it is more likely that you will leaf through it and dip into the papers that pique your interest. The range of the papers is very wide, and extremely interesting. The authors of the papers represent not only archives, but a range of other disciplines as well. They also come from five continents, and recount episodes or situations of


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