The keeper of Parliament Hill's living history
The House of Commons is the centre of political power in Canada, known for its raucous debates and political intrigue. But it's also a historical building filled with a treasure trove of Canadian history.
In Centre Block alone, there are over 5,000 pieces, ranging from paintings and sculptures to furniture and ceremonial objects.
Presiding over this collection is a curator, arguably one of the most remarkable jobs in Canada. Since 2002, that curator has been David Monaghan.
"We take care of these items and follow very much the same standards you would find in a museum, to ensure their long-term preservation and their availability to the institution," says Monaghan, who calls being curator a "great gig."
"What I love about it is you really do experience that sense of history being made every day in this institution, and you're part of a process," he says. "You’re supporting our democratic rights and institutions but also carrying those institutions forward into the future while protecting the past."
Monaghan says the biggest challenge of being curator at the House of Commons is balancing preservation with use.
Unlike in a museum, many of these objects are still used on a daily basis.
"These objects continue to be used for the purpose for which they were created, and that's quite unique. So it's very much a living collection."
Friday is Monaghan’s last day before retirement, after more than 25 years of curation in Ottawa and 12 years on Parliament Hill. This week, he took CBC on a behind-the-scenes look at some of his favourite items in the House of Commons collection.
"Objects to me are things which link us to the past, as well in some interesting ways to the future. And I've just been very fortunate to have worked here and have this lovely collection to work with," he reflects.
"If there's anything I wish I contributed to is a growing awareness and appreciation for the collection in the building."
Among his accomplishments: updating the computer system used to manage and catalogue the collection and creating a website for the Heritage Collection so the public can read about the unique pieces of Canadian history.
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