Wednesday, May 08, 2024

A new museum for the Quebecois? UPDATED

Eric Bédard

La Presse
has recently been covering the plan of the Quebec government of Francois Legault to create a new national museum for Quebec, one said to be "not dedicated to the history of Quebec but rather to that of the Quebec nation" ("le futur musée ne sera pas consacré à l’histoire du Québec, mais plutôt à celui de la nation québécoise").  

It is already getting pushback, notably in an opinion piece in La Presse from 36 historians and cultural figures led by historians Catherine LaRochelle and Camille Robert:  "Will the contents reflect the state of historiography or will they propose a return to the old national history centred on great events and heroes?" ("Est-ce que les contenus refléteront l’état de l’historiographie ou proposeront-ils un retour au vieux récit national centré sur les grands évènements et les héros?")

The association of Quebec First Nations has also questioned the project declaring that they are not merely the prehistory of Quebec and demanding that recognized Indigenous historians be included in the project.  But a Culture Ministry spokesperson specified, "This will not be a museum of the history of the occupation of the territory of the valley of the St. Lawrence, but a museum of the history of our nation, la nation québécoise."   

Premier Legault was pretty clear where he stood on that question: "My intention, the one I am giving myself, is that the Québécois come from here saying to themselves, 'I'm proud to be Québécois." (« Mon objectif, celui que je me donne, c’est que les Québécois sortent d’ici en se disant “je suis fier d’être québécois”»)

Eric Bédard, the notable Quebec historian who heads the comité scientifique for the museum, specified that the point is "a history of a people of French language and culture." («Le but est de proposer une histoire d’un peuple de langue et de culture françaises»). He suggested that the First Nations perhaps represent "the prehistory of Quebec."

Bédard, a noted scholar of Quebec history who now teaches in TELUQ, the distance education arm of the Universite de Quebec, is a figure without many counterparts in English Canada, a widely published scholar who also has a substantial public profile through writing, broadcasting, and commenting regularly about history in major French-language media. 

Update, May 13:  I was amused to see these exact same quotations (from the same couple of online La Presse articles, no doubt) being the basis of a Saturday Globe and  Mail column by Konrad Yakabuski. Today the Toronto Star has some new sources, notable historians Stephen High and Ronald Rudin, commenting on the same subject.

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