Music at the Canadian Museum of Civilization

Of all the national museums, only the Museum of Civilization is of prime importance to music, though the National Gallery owns paintings of musical interest, some of which are reproduced as illustrations in EMC (see also Art, visual), and the National Museum of Science and Technology owns sound reproduction equipment of historical significance.

Canadian Museum of Civilization

Canadian Museum of Civilization/Musée canadien des civilisations. Of all the national museums, only the Museum of Civilization is of prime importance to music, though the National Gallery owns paintings of musical interest, some of which are reproduced as illustrations in EMC (see also Art, visual), and the National Museum of Science and Technology owns sound reproduction equipment of historical significance.

Formed in 1842, the Museum Branch of the Geological Survey of Canada/Musée de la Commission géologique du Canada moved into the Victoria Memorial Museum building at Metcalfe and McLeod streets in Ottawa in 1911. The name National Museum of Canada was adopted in 1927, a division into museums of Human History took place in 1957. In 1987 the name Canadian Museum of Civilization was adopted. Three divisions of the museum have contributed to the preservation of musical heritage.

In 1991 the History Division owned some 175 European-type or exotic instruments, some of them built in Canada. The instruments had been acquired on an occasional rather than a systematic basis.

The Canadian Ethnology Service/Service canadien d'Ethnologie and the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies/Centre canadien d'études sur la culture traditionnelle, in 1991 directed respectively by A. Laforêt and S. Inglis, both originated in the Anthropology Division, created in 1910 with the appointment of Edward Sapir (1884-1939), a US-educated social anthropologist and linguist of German birth. Possibly the first work of musical interest done for the new division was W.H. Mechling's transcription of Malecite and Micmac songs in New Brunswick in 1911. That same year marked the appointment of Marius Barbeau as ethnologist and anthropologist, a fruitful association that continued long past Barbeau's official retirement in 1948 and that did much to enhance the museum's fame. In 1926 Sapir was succeeded as the division's chief by Diamond Jenness (b Wellington, New Zealand, 1886, d near Ottawa 1969). Like Barbeau an Oxford-educated anthropologist, Jenness remained in the position until 1948.

In 1957, when a Folklore Section was created within the division, Carmen Roy (b Bonaventure, Gaspé, Que,1919) became its head. A specialist in French-canadian folklore, Roy had been a museum adviser since 1948. In 1966, when the Anthropology Division was divided into an Ethnology Division (renamed Ethnology Service in 1974) and a Folklore Division (renamed Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies in 1970), Roy became the chief of the latter, moving to the position of senior scientist in folk culture in 1977.

The responsibilities of the Ethnology Service have included the collecting, analysis, preservation, and dissemination of Native and Métis music and the housing of a large collection of approximately 1350 musical or other sound-producing instruments (see Instrument collections). By 1990 its recordings and transcriptions spanned over 80 years of collecting activities. While not all of the approximately 7000 tapes and wax cylinders were of music, they contained many traditional and new songs and about 2000 pieces of dance music (instrumental). The collectors included, in particular, Asen Balikci, Marius Barbeau, Beverley Diamond, A.T. Cringan, Diamond Jenness, Christian Leden, Maija Lutz, William Mechling, and Edward Sapir, and collecting continued. Open to researchers, the collections have made possible the study of ethnic identity, of musical styles, of instruments and of mutual influences among the indigenous peoples of Canada. In 1990, the manuscript resources included transcriptions of songs in about 50 indigenous languages from 11 linguistic families. Some were translated.

Until the early 1960s the holdings of the Folklore Division were almost exclusively in the French and Anglo-Saxon traditions. In 1962 however the museum decided to expand its research program to include Canadian folk music of other ethnic origins as well. The impressions reported in Kenneth Peacock's A Survey of Ethnic Folkmusic across Western Canada in 1963 were positive and in 1966 the first collection in this cultural area was undertaken. The federal government's multicultural policy, announced in 1971, further encouraged such investigations. An outline of the 5000-odd items of music of ethnic minorities collected under museum auspices prior to 1975 is given in CMB no. 10 (1975). At the end of the 1970s, French- and English-language materials continued to form the major holdings. In 1991 there were some 250 collections of folksongs and instrumental music on more than 3000 wax cylinders and more than 10,000 tape recordings, the majority transcribed into notation. The musical instrument collection of approximately 650 items includes instruments of various ethno-cultural groups and instruments made by contemporary Canadian makers. Among the collectors, scholars, and administrators, on staff or on contract, have been Marius Barbeau, Carmelle Bégin, Laura Boulton, Emilia Comisel, Helen Creighton, Pierre Crépeau, Annemarie Gallaugher, Roy W. Gibbons, John Glofcheskie, Pauline Haslebacher, Richard Johnston, Robert B. Klymasz, Anne Lederman, É.-Z. Massicotte, Lucien Ouellet, Paul McIntyre, Kenneth Peacock, George Proctor, Carmen Roy, Ruth Rubin, Koozma J. Tarasoff and many others. Appointed in 1975 as a researcher in the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, in 1991 Carmelle Bégin was the curator of the ethnomusicology program and Lucien Ouellet was research assistant. Bégin has been the curator of 'Shall we Dance,' a 1989 exhibition on dance traditions, and in 1991 was preparing a major exhibition on Canadian musical instruments, scheduled for 1992.

See also Ethnomusicology; Folk music

Further Reading

  • Alcock, F.J. 'Folklore studies at the National Museum of Canada,' JAF, vol 67, Apr-Jun 1954

    Peacock, Kenneth. 'Establishing perimeters for ethnomusicological field research in Canada: on-going projects and future possibilities at the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies,' Ethnomusicology, vol 16, Sep 1972

    Landry, Renée. 'A descriptive list of selected manuscript collections at the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, National Museum of Man, Ottawa,' Canadian Ethnic Studies, vol 7, 1975

    Pelinski, Ramón. 'The music of Canada's ethnic minorities,' CMB, 10, Spring-Summer 1975

    Publications in Folk Culture/Publications sur la culture traditionnelle (Ottawa 1980)


    Barbeau, Marius, et al. Come a Singing! Canadian Folk Songs (Ottawa 1947, 1959, 1963, 1973)

    Barbeau, Marius. Le Rossignol y chante, National Museum Bulletin No. 175, Répertoire de la chanson folklorique part 1 (Ottawa 1962, rev 1979)

    Peacock, Kenneth. A Survey of Ethnic Folkmusic across Western Canada, National Museum of Man Anthropology Papers No. 5 (Ottawa 1963)

    Creighton, Helen and MacLeod, Calum. Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia, National Museum of Canada Bulletin No. 198 (Ottawa 1964, 1979)

    Kurath, Gertrude. Dance and Song Rituals of Six Nations Reserve, Ontario, National Museum of Canada Bulletin No. 220 (Ottawa 1968)

    Creighton, Helen. Folksongs From Southern New Brunswick, National Museum of Man Publications in Folk Culture No. 1 (Ottawa 1971)

    Roy, Carmen, ed. Présentation du Centre canadien d'études sur la culture traditionnelle/An Introduction to the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, Mercury Series No. 7 (Ottawa 1973)

    Song, Bang-Song. The Korean-Canadian Folk Song: An Ethnomusicological Study, Mercury Series No. 10 (Ottawa 1974)

    McIntyre, Paul. Black Pentecostal Music in Windsor, Mercury Series No. 15 (Ottawa 1976)

    Cox, Gordon S.A. Folk Music in a Newfoundland Outport, Mercury Series No. 32 (Ottawa 1980)

    Glofcheskie, John Michael. Folk Music in Canada's Oldest Polish Community/La musique traditionelle de la plus ancien communauté polonaise du Canada, Mercury Series No. 33 (Ottawa 1980)

    Gibbons, Roy W. Folk Fiddling in Canada: A Sampling, Mercury Series No. 35 (Ottawa 1981)

    Bégin, Carmelle. La musique traditionelle pour violon: Jean Carignan, Mercury Series No. 40 (Ottawa 1981)

    Barbeau, Marius, collector. En Roulant ma boule, Répertoire de la chanson folklorique part 2 (Ottawa rev edn 1982)

    Gibbons, Roy W. As It Comes: Folk Fiddling in Prince George, British Columbia. Mercury Series No. 42(Ottawa 1982)

    - The CCFCS Collection of Musical Instruments: Vol I, Aerophones; Vol II, Idiophones and Membranophones; Vol III, Chordophones. Mercury Series No 43-5 (Ottawa 1982-4)

    Bégin, Carmelle. La musique traditionnelle pour accordéon diatonique: Philippe Bruneau, Mercury Series No. 47 (Ottawa 1983)

    Karp, Ellen, compiler. Many Are Strong Among the Strangers: Canadian Songs of Immigration, Mercury Series No. 50 (Ottawa 1984)

    Bégin, Carmelle. Fiddle Music in the Ottawa Valley: Dawson Girdwood, Mercury Series No. 52 (Ottawa 1985)

    Barbeau, Marius. Le Roi boit, Répertoire de la chanson folklorique part 3 (Ottawa 1987)

    - and Crépeau, Pierre. Dance: Roots, Rituals, and Romance, (Ottawa 1989)

    Creighton, Helen, collector. La Fleur du rosier: chansons folkloriques d'Acadie/Acadian Folk Songs, ed Ronald Labelle (Sydney, Ottawa 1988)

    Also items issued in earlier publication series including the National Museum of Canada Anthropological Series and the National Museum of Man Publications in Folk Culture by Marius Barbeau, Helen Creighton, Robert Kylmasz, MacEdward Leach, Kenneth Peacock, George A. Proctor, and others