Re: name of museum

Wed, 4 Jan 1995 10:27:50 -0600

This raises another issue: Is "civilization" an exclusive and
ethnocentric term? The Canadian Museum of Civilization/Musee Canadien
des Civilisations undoubtedly contains a large amount of material that
traditional scholarship would not interpret as pertaining to
"civilizations" in the sense of stratified, hierarchical,
politically-centralized, state societies. The museum's new name
certainly implies that its central focus is "civilization," which some
might interpret as colonialist, imperialist, and even more offensive in
its connotations than "Museum of Man" ever was! When are we going to see
a "Museum of People"?

Here's a related question: Is "prehistoric" (when used to refer to
human cultures) also ethnocentric and perjorative? I have a feeling the
majority of anthropologists (if not archaeologists) would agree that
a "history" does not have to be written down to be valid. Is it really
fair to insist that non-literate peoples have no history until it is
recorded by literate ones?

These language issues are hardly trivial. They help to redefine the ways
we think.

On Tue, 3 Jan 1995, maureen korp wrote:

> A wee bit of correction...the former Museum of Man in Ottawa
> was renamed several years ago (five? six?), the Canadian Museum
> of Civilization / Musee Canadien des Civilisations.
> Not Western civilization, please not that. We'd be back to the
> drawing board again. Inclusive speech (as a matter of accuracy
> in scholarship) is mandated in the guidelines set out for SSHRC
> grants (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada,
> our central funding agency for doctoral and post-doctoral research).
> And all this is in French and English. Gets to be a bit awkward,
> but mostly it seems pretty normal. As the joke goes, "Don't mind
> us, we're Canadians."
> best wishes,
> Maureen Korp, PhD
> University of Ottawa
> mkorp@uottawa