Museum of Civilization Taps Oil Patch for $1 Million to Help Fund Canada's 150th

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Museum turns to oil patch to fund Canada 150

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GATINEAU, Qc - Canada's 150th birthday is being brought to you by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

A $1-million sponsorship of the Canadian Museum of Civilization is a great opportunity to get the oil and gas industry's message out to Canadians, the president of the industry lobby group said Monday as the deal was announced.

"The advantage of partnering with an institution like this museum is it has national presence, it's obviously got significant profile in Ottawa but it also has national reach in terms of travelling exhibits and so on," Dave Collyer said in an interview at the museum in Gatineau, Que.

"It's a way for us to get the industry's presence more broadly identified and visible across the country."

CAPP, along with Canada's Oil Sands Producers, will provide $200,000 annually for five years in return for which the Canadian Museum of Civilization -- soon to be renamed the Canadian Museum of History by the Conservative government -- will link a number of exhibits to the industry.

The sponsorship is flagged as helping fund "1867," an exhibit that will show in 2014 and 2015 leading up the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

"Through our exhibitions, our research, our collections, our programs and our outreach, we plan to be at the very centre of this national celebration," Mark O'Neill, the museum's CEO and president, said as he welcomed the oil industry to the museum's "ambitious" plans.

In an interview, O'Neill said such sponsorships are going to become more common in future as flat government funding fails to keep up with the rising costs of exhibitions. About 80 per cent of the museum's current budget comes from the public purse.

And after years of steep corporate tax cuts, the Conservative government is tightening those purse strings. Once fully-funded public institutions across the capital are now seeking corporate sponsors.

The July 1 Canada Day shows on and around Parliament Hill this year, for instance, were funded in part by the Chicken Farmers of Canada, Loblaws Group of Companies, McDonald's Canada, Lego Canada and others.

The development is raising questions among government watchers.

"At the very least, even having private funders simply putting their names on exhibitions commodifies what should be a neutral environment," said Kirsten Kozolanka, an associate professor at Carleton University who studies government communications. …