In Conversation With Chantal Amyot

February 21, 2022
Image of Chantal Amyot in History Hall

Chantal Amyot, Acting Director General and Vice-President, Canadian Museum of History

You have had a long career with the Canadian Museum of History — more than 30 years. What brought you to the Museum to begin with, and what keeps you motivated?

I’ve always enjoyed going to museums. Growing up, it was a family activity my parents encouraged and facilitated. It was all about discovery. I feel extremely lucky to have so many beautiful and warm memories of times spent with my family in museums, or at cultural and heritage sites.

When I got to the age of thinking about career paths, I started to explore my options. Museum studies was a very new discipline at the time, and it felt like quite a leap to “specialize” in such a trendy topic. But I did follow that path, and it was a revelation to me. The breadth, the variety, the passion, the possibilities — it all felt new and exciting! And now that I’ve been in the field for more than 30 years, I realize that, even though things have changed and evolved, what was meaningful to me — the core of what motivates me — is still there, and still works its magic.

What has been the highlight of your career?

There are way too many highlights to pick just one! Joining the Canadian Postal Museum, being part of the team developing the Canadian History Hall, meeting and working with Douglas Cardinal. It’s fundamentally about the people I’ve worked with. That’s the ultimate highlight.

How would you describe the Canadian Museum of History to someone who has never experienced it?

A place of beauty, understanding and discovery. A place with soul.

Do you have a favourite space in the Museum? How does it speak to you?

That would depend on my mood. It could be the Grand Hall and its spectacular views, entering the Canadian History Hall, the First Face in the History Hall, the Spirit of Haida Gwaii, the Bruni mural — there are too many to choose!

What do you think makes the Museum of History stand out among other museums you have visited in your travels?

Comparisons with other museums are very difficult to make. It seems that I have memories for every area in this Museum. I walk into a space, and I can’t help seeing its many transformations, while imagining new ones. For instance, when I enter Gallery G today — a beautifully and newly transformed space — it is still alive with what was showcased there over the years, and I’m excited to think of what will be presented there in the future. For me, this place is alive like no other museum can ever be.