Grumbling about the transfer of 25 million historic artifacts in Ottawa

Photo: Annik MH de Carufel Le Devoir
The archaeologists of Quebec will no longer have access to the artifacts from their sites of excavation.

The canadian government goes ahead with its project to build in the area of the federal capital, a new centre “latest” to bring together, under one roof, the $ 25 million historic artifacts and archaeological, which constitute the national collection of the Parks Canada agency. But this measure of centralization is displeasing in the middle of historians and archaeologists.


The millions of objects affected by this administrative decision are for the moment kept in the vicinity of the places where they come from. They must be moved to the opening of the new unique centre, to be completed in January 2020.


For professor Martin Pâquet, of the history Department of the Université Laval, ” this means a lot, because the access to artifacts requires the on-site research. The archaeologists of Quebec will no longer have access to the artifacts from their sites of excavation. In addition, for the citizens of the places where these artifacts, it is a dispossession of their heritage. For example, people from the Gaspé peninsula Forillon, who hoped to regain the artifacts of excavations which were from home — the artifacts which were stored at Quebec until 2012, will need to make a 17 hour drive for the visit to Gatineau. Ditto for Louisbourg “, the old French fortress in Nova Scotia.


To avoid this situation, the Musée de la Gaspésie wants to expand in order to retain his home rather than in Gatineau this heritage of Gaspesians. The director, Natalie Spooner, explains the Need to have an agreement in principle with Ottawa. “We had an agreement with Parks Canada. It gives a horizon of three years. But I know that the side of Quebec, it growls and shaking. “


The approximately five million artifacts from Parks Canada storage in Quebec city, are doomed, like those in the Maritimes or Western canada, to be moved into the federal capital. An internal report on the state of conservation of the objects in the warehouses of Quebec shows different problems, including the presence of insects and an environment that is poorly controlled.


According to Parks Canada explained to Duty, about 60 % of the 31 million artefacts under its responsibility ” are threatened because of environmental conditions, inappropriate and the lack of adequate security “. Despite the centralization, Parks Canada ensures that it will continue to expose and collaborate with the regional bodies.


Warehouse giant


According to the call for tenders launched by Ottawa “in a perspective of effectiveness and efficiency,” the new warehouse giant must have a gross floor area of approximately 9,000 m2, which is approximately the area of two american football fields.


The archaeologist Christian Gates St-Pierre, of the Department of anthropology of the University of Montreal, is not more favourable to the project, “as the majority of [his] colleagues,” he says. “It’s a process that has been initiated by the previous government. We would like to see it back up. “


A spokesman for Parks Canada confirmed the Duty that the project is going well and forward.


After that a number of archaeologists had been laid off to save money, says Christian Gates St-Pierre, everything has been centralized, as if it was the only way possible now. “Everything will become less accessible for both researchers and for the communities from which the artifacts. “


According to the archaeologist, there is something paradoxical to wish that the communities and regions take ownership of their history, but their removing at the same time the access to the collections. “It is clear that it will restrict access to the collections. It will very clearly affect. “


Professor emeritus of art history, Laurier Lacroix for its part argues that, in principle, it has ” always been in favor of centralization “. But it is certain, however, he said, that such a concentration poses in this case the important issues of access and conservation. In the event of a fire or water damage, the consequences would be clearly more disastrous.


For the historian Martin Pâquet, the situation that is being put in place calls into question the heritage management by the researchers and by citizens. “The artifacts are traces of the past left by the predecessors who have occupied the territory. It goes without saying that their successors have their word to say. There is a form of dispossession when everything is centralized in Gatineau. How the Acadians can they have contact with their own past if traces of this past are hundreds of miles from home ? “




Professor of museology Philippe Dubé observes that all of his colleagues are outraged by this action by Parks Canada. “There is a lot of resistance. Even the mayor Labeaume, has spoken out against. “After that Parks Canada has removed a number of research teams and that the staff was reduced, the approach of grouping the collections seemed to go in the direction of” economy of scale “that could help, failing that it would no longer support the specialists in the region, to” have a vision “and to” work in a more comprehensive manner “.


The construction budget for the construction of this warehouse Parks in Canada amounted to 28 million, not including the cost of investigation, inspection of materials, production of bilingual documents, sets out the tender wording in the name of the Queen of Canada.


The building will be constructed in the industrial park of Gatineau, in a space of 18 000 square meters on which there are, for now, parking and service buildings that must be demolished before the construction.


It is to ” design and build a facility that houses with efficiency of large storage spaces controlled-environment, including the systems and equipment necessary for the storage optimal of archaeological artifacts and historical and their documentation, as well as offices for management of the collections and work areas to support the treatment of objects, exhibitions, conservation, conservation triage, ceremonies and research “. Interested companies had until 15 November to submit their applications.

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