When Robert Ghiz was elected premier of Prince Edward Island back in 2007, one of his promises was the creation of a provincial museum. Prince Edward Island already had a provincial museum system, featuring seven sites that range in theme from the Green Park Shipbuilding Museum to the Acadian Museum and the Basin Head Fisheries Museum. What you won't find in the province, however, is a museum that will tell you an overarching history of the province and its people. Ghiz, who recently announced that he will be leaving politics in 2015, now says that the museum might come in the form of a gift from the federal government in 2017. You know, as a thank you for the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Which we trace back to the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, so the province deserves it. But he also notes it isn't a priority. So I suggest you don't hold your breath on this one.
Prince Edward Island is a perfect example of how stratified history can become. In addition to the seven government-funded sites referred to above, there are many more museums that tell the story of a renowned figure, a town, or an important commodity. (And really, who doesn't want to visit the Canadian Potato Museum in O'Leary?) These stories are all worth sharing, and I'm happy these museums exist. They acknowledge that there is more than one experience or perspective worth remembering. At the same time, I would love to see a single site museum that provides an overarching story of Prince Edward Island that could serve as the central piece of the existing provincial museum system.
The fact that Ghiz is leaving the premier's office might provide some hope for this cause. The frontrunner to replace him is Wade MacLauchlan, who earlier this year released a political biography of Alex Campbell, Prince Edward Island's 23rd premier. MacLauchlan is a known supporter of Island culture and heritage ... perhaps he'll prioritize the issue?
As it turns out, the absence of a central museum isn't a problem unique to Prince Edward Island. The lack of a Museum of Toronto is an issue that Christopher Moore addressed at the end of a recent blog entry. Is this a unifying factor for Prince Edward Islanders and Torontonians? In the name of history, I'll take it.