OP-ED: Portrait gallery belongs where capital really is

IDNUMBER 200805050049
PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2008.05.05
BYLINE: Jim Munson
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen

Portrait gallery belongs where capital really is

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Washington, D.C. and like all visitors, I made time to visit the great museums and galleries of that capital city.

Capital cities are fascinating places because they are more than an urban conglomeration — an economic and social cluster of business and people — they are a reflection of the country as a whole. Washington, D.C. is the United States of America, just as London is England and Paris is France. These cities reflect the greater national portrait of their nations through their cultural institutions and landmarks.

The same is true of Ottawa. When people come to visit Ottawa, they come to visit their nation’s capital. They come to visit the Parliament Buildings to learn about the political institution that governs them. They come to the Museum of Civilization to learn about their past. They come to the Canadian War Museum to learn about their history. And they learn more from the Museum of Nature, the Aviation Museum, and the Museum of Science and Technology. This is why the Portrait Gallery of Canada needs to be in Ottawa.

Stephen Harper’s government sees things differently. They are putting this national portrait gallery out to tender. They want private sector involvement and they want other cities to have an opportunity to house the portrait gallery. I think that the history books will give this government the moniker of great dismantlers.

But why move it away from Ottawa? Why not embrace the history and culture of this great country and showcase it properly in the nation’s capital?

A national portrait gallery in the national capital only makes sense.

After visiting Ottawa, Canadians will go home and say “I’ve been to Ottawa. I know my country better. I know more about my past and about who I am.” Our portraits deserve a home and let’s make that home Ottawa — Canada’s national capital.

Jim Munson, Ottawa

Senate of Canada