The Canadian Museum of Civilization is getting a new name and a fresh mandate to educate Canadians about their history and national identity.
The Canadian Museum of History, as the institution in Gatineau, Que., will now be known, will be more sharply focused on the country's past, with stories that explain how a land that was once dismissed as "a few acres of ice" developed into a unique, wealthy and influential country.
The previous title was vague, as was the museum's mission, which seemed to include multiple trajectories and themes, everything from postal history to natural science and exhibits on butterflies.
When the redevelopment is complete, visitors will know they are taking a trip into the past, but the goal is also to help Canadians understand the present.
The changes may upset those who dislike change, but the refocus is merely the latest in a series of changes in title and function in the museum's long history as a repository of national treasure and knowledge.
The museum traces its lineage to 1856 when the Province of Canada established the Geological Museum.
It eventually evolved into a national repository for flora and fauna, ancient human history, languages and cultural artifacts. After more changes, it became known as the National Museum of Man, and then the Museum of Civilization in 1986. It moved into its current building in 1989.
The goal of the latest initiative is to develop partnerships with museums across Canada, including the Manitoba Museum, so provincial exhibits can be displayed in Ottawa and national treasures can tour the country.
It's a laudable goal, but it doesn't appear to come with a budget.
Moving precious objects and staging exhibitions isn't cheap, so Ottawa will have to come up with more money if it wants to truly pursue the idea of partnerships.
Critics say the new configuration is just another Tory plot to remake Canada in its own image.
The inclusion of war stories, for example, is cited as evidence of a right-wing agenda, but the complaints are preposterous.
War history is a major part of the Canadian story and it belongs in the new museum. The Canadian War Museum tells the story in greater detail, but a national history museum would be incomplete without a military narrative.
The changes, moreover, originated within the museum itself, which saw a need to reinvent its product.
The new vision reflects the country's growing self-awareness and the realization that a knowledge of history is the basis of an informed citizenry.