Museum spends $500K on re-brand following Tory-mandated name change

A view of the Canadian Museum of History is shown in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday, Oct.16, 2012.
A view of the Canadian Museum of History is shown in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday, Oct.16, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — The Harper government’s contentious move to re-brand the country’s largest and most-visited museum is slated to cost more than half a million dollars.

The tally includes costs associated with hiring a design firm to create a new logo, a marketing agency to conduct focus groups and yet another firm to “engage citizens” on the museum’s role in promoting the nation’s history, according to documents obtained under access-to-information laws.

The more-than $500,000 price tag stems from the Conservatives’ 2012 decision to re-name the Canadian Museum of Civilization the Canadian Museum of History, reflecting a new mandate focusing on the social and political stories that make up the country’s past.

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With the name change came a logo change, meaning anything and everything bearing the old logo would have to be replaced — think bags for the gift store, comment cards, door signs, stickers to put on wheel chairs and strollers, the logo on a podium, a slew of employment-related forms, lapel pins, parking signs, all “you are here” signs … The list goes on.

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New Democrat deputy critic for heritage Irene Mathyssen described the costs as an “outstanding waste of money.”

But it’s not only the newly-minted Museum of History that needed all those changes.

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“The visual identity of the Canadian Museum of Civilization is intertwined with the visual identity of the Canadian War Museum, and this relationship shall remain for the Canadian Museum of History,” reads the contract between the museum and a Montreal-based design agency. “In this respect, a complete revision of the visual identity of the (Museum of Civilization), the (War Museum) and each facet within these brands is required.” 

In an interview this week, Mathyssen said the Conservatives’ purpose and rationale behind the name change was never made clear; if the intention is truly to help give Canadians a better grasp of their history, she said, the funds would be better spent on small, local museums.

“There are far smarter ways of doing this,” she said.

A spokesman for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover said Canadians “deserve” this museum.

“Our children need to know more about Canada’s past,” Mike Storeshaw wrote in an email this week. “The Canadian Museum of History will highlight the national achievements and accomplishments that have shaped our country.”

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Storeshaw did not address a question asking  whether the government could have shifted the museum’s mandate without changing its name.

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In the contract with the above-mentioned design agency, the museum requested the “visual identification system” be developed in such a way that allows the “identity to vary as our needs evolve.”

The agency tasked with that job, Taxi Canada, originally signed a contract worth $89,000 in December 2012. The amount was later revised to $102,100 in June 2013.

According to the contract, Taxi was responsible for delivering the “logo and visual identity” of both museums as well as the corporate visual identity, which would blend both new logos.

A Quebec-based marketing communications agency, BleuBlancRouge Design, signed a contract with the museum in May 2012 for $62,500.

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The museum also enlisted the services of another Montreal company, A Propos Marketing, to bring the logos to five focus groups (two French groups in Montreal and three English groups in the National Capital Region). The cost of their services was originally pegged at $21,825 and later bumped up to $34,825.

Toronto-based Lord Cultural Resources, meanwhile, was hired to “engage with citizens across the country,” communicating the museum’s mission and finding ways to make the museum’s exhibits and programs widely accessible.

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There were several revisions to that contract, both for time extensions and remuneration, from when it was first drafted in January 2012.  The final contract value was signed at $148,483.34 in March 2013.

Other costs disclosed in the documents include $105 for nine boxes of business cards for eight museum employees and $3,754 for two tall, outdoor banners, plus the necessary hardware. Many costs, including those for gift shop bags, official stickers and visitors’ guides, were redacted from the newly-released documents.

A highly-redacted spreadsheet updated March 20, 2014 suggests the institution plans to spend at least $503,076 on the project.

A spokeswoman for the Museum of History would not comment on how much money the museum is eating up in sunk costs, such as already-purchased business cards, stationary and banners.

The federal government announced in 2012 a one-time investment of $25 million to help fund aspects of the museum’s transformation such as displays on the county’s milestones since Confederation.

MPs from the NDP, Liberals and Green Party have all come out against the move, arguing it is an expensive change during a time of budget cuts and austerity.

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