This article examines a range of issues surrounding the proposition that museums are excellent sites in which historical understanding can be deepened, thus raising the possibility of peaceful resolution to conflict and the achievement of social justice. The article begins by arguing that Canada is a case study worthy of detailed exploration. A settler state with a significant aboriginal presence, Canada is unique in its official commitment to multicultural and bilingual identities, and its traditional identity as a country extolling human rights, social justice, environmental responsibility, and peacekeeping. These markers of nationhood have become increasingly problematic in light of the Conservative government's insistence upon unifying narratives of nationhood privileging military glories, ties to the British monarchy, and constitutional achievements. This reinvention of the nation has been visible in many places, but especially in commemorative practices, sites of memory, and museums. Recent and ongoing changes to the museum landscape have ignited much discussion about the nature and role of national museums. The author offers a summary of recent scholarly work by public historians on museums in contemporary society and considers museums that explicitly assert an agenda of social responsibility, before introducing the reader to three major national museums in Canada: the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Canadian Museum of Civilization (soon to be the Canadian History Museum), and the Canadian War Museum. Finally, the article introduces readers to the articles that follow in this special issue.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Historical controversy, Historical understanding, Museums, Public history, Social justice
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034599
Journal Peace and Conflict
Citation
Dean, D. (2013). Museums as sites for historical understanding, peace, and social justice: Views from Canada. Peace and Conflict, 19(4), 325–337. doi:10.1037/a0034599