This piece was originally published on ActiveHistory.ca.
“Places possess a marked capacity for triggering acts of self-reflection, inspiring thoughts about who one presently is, or memories of who one used to be, or musings on who one might become… When places are actively sensed, the physical landscape becomes wedded to the landscape of the mind, to the roving imagination, and where the latter may lead is anybody’s guess.” – Keith Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places, 107.
Just as I read these words last week, the Toronto Star disclosed municipal plans to close three of the City of Toronto’s ten museums. Montgomery’s Inn, Gibson House and the Zion School House – museums outside of the downtown core and closely allied with the Etobicoke and North York Historical societies – are on the chopping block due to municipal cutbacks. This decision builds on the recently announced closure of the Air and Space Museum at Downsview Park, one of a few other museums in the north end of the city.
In an age of austerity, as Sean Kheraj noted last week, all public institutions supporting culture and heritage are vulnerable. But these cuts do not just reflect cutbacks in the culture and heritage sectors. In a city already bereft of recognized historical sites outside of the downtown core, this municipal decision reinforces urban and suburban differences in how Toronto’s past is told. If places have the power to shape our self-perception and how we situate ourselves in the world, as Basso and others have suggested, how has the uneven distribution of historical places influenced the culture and politics of Canada’s largest city? Continue reading “Museum Closures, Heritage and Cultivating a Sense of Place in Toronto”