Thursday, April 18, 2013

Heritage Never Gets Old

It’s a great time to get involved in the museum and heritage sector. In the next few years alone, Canadians will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation (2017), the 200th birthday of our first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald (2015), and the centennial of the Great War (2014), in which Canadians played a major role in important battles such as Vimy Ridge.

In light of all these commemorations, the government is focusing on our history more than ever. In 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared Canadian heritage to be a top priority. Even in a time of economic uncertainty, Harper has promised that the heritage sector, a $46 billion dollar industry which provides over 630 000 jobs, will have steady funding for the next five years.

Museums have a valuable role in society. They tell the stories of people who can no longer tell their stories themselves. They promote cultural unity through understanding and appreciation. They act as teacher, storyteller, and facilitator of discussion all at the same time.

Canada may be a young country, but its history is only growing. Those being educated in museum and heritage studies are those who will be tasked with preserving and recording this history. Luckily, programs in museum studies and related fields are offered at universities and colleges across Canada.

Undergraduate programs and certifications, like the three-year Applied Museum Studies program at Algonquin College ("the oldest practicum based museum studies programs operating in Canada") abound, but masters programs are less common, with only a few currently offered in Canada. The University of British Columbia offers a Master of Museum Education program, which focuses on teaching and learning through museums. The University of Toronto offers a Master of Museum Studies program, which allows students to develop professional skills and pursue their interests in regards to the museum industry. For francophones, l’Université de Montréal and l’Université du Québec à Montréal offer a joint program, Maîtrise en muséologie. This program explores all aspects of the museum industry, including management, research, conservation, and interpretation.

Those who want a more specialized program have opportunities across Canada as well. People of aboriginal descent can participate in the Aboriginal Training Program in Museum Practices, where they complete practical training at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum. For those more interested in the process behind building a museum, the University of Manitoba is offering a new program, Museum Design: Masters Studio, which focuses on interior design and architecture for museums.

The museums and heritage sector has a bright future that will only shine brighter as our country ages. Students who chose to get involved in this sector now are the ones who will be shaping our history tomorrow.

For more information about museum studies programs across Canada, visit the CMA website.

Kierra Jones is a third-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa who interned with the CMA during spring 2013.

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