Sunday, 3 January 2016

National Museum of What?

Google News' archive of old newspapers is proving to be a fascinating source of material for this blog.

For example, I just learned that in the 1980s, the National Museum of Man in Ottawa had a hell of a time trying to figure out what their new name should be. They wanted to change their name because it was sexist, and they wanted the name change to coincide with their move to a new building across the river.

But what should the name be? The museum proposed about 50 names, including these three:

Museum of Man and Woman
Museum of Mankind
Museum of People

None of these were quite right, so in the winter of 1984-85, they opened it up to the public. They received about 2,000 letters, over half of which favoured the original name, National Museum of Man. Here are some of the other suggestions:

Museum of Canajun Injunuity [presumably a joke]
Museum of Civilization
Museum of Man and Nature
Museum of Mutation
National Heritage Museum [the second most popular, after the original name]
National Museum of All Men
National Museum of Herstory or History [hmm!]
National Museum of Man (Embracing Women)
National Museum of Man and His Wife
National Museum of Men, Women and Gays [yikes]
National Museum of Others
National Museum of Post-Matriarchal (Patriarchal) Culture [what?]

This wasn't getting them anywhere, so a committee of experts was created in January 1986 to sort it out for good. Presumably it was they who picked the name "Museum of Civilization", although I'm not sure when or why the change was made from "National Museum" to "Canadian Museum".

Montreal Gazette, 30 January 1985
Free Lance-Star, 14 February 1985
Montreal Gazette, 25 January 1986