More Politics for Treasures of Afghanistan, but Ottawa Hopeful of End to Strike

UPDATE – Chantal Schryer just emailed me. She says that, as of November 15 (three weeks into the exhibit) 7,711 people have seen the show.

In an email she said.

“It is important to note that November is a slower month in terms of visitors ship.It is like that every year. Regardless of that fact, as I told you yesterday, the exhibition is very popular and so far, thousands of people have come to see it and we expect many more. It is in fact the most popular exhibition right now.”


As Heritage Key reported yesterday, it has been nearlyone month since Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, opened at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, in Ottawa Canada.

For that entire period of time there has been a strike at the museum -with nearly 400 workers (including tour guides and educational staff) manning the picket lines. Anyone who wants to visit the museum has to cross this line in order to get in.

Just hours ago Heritage Key interviewed museumspokesperson (and vice-president for public affairs)Chantal Schryer and union president Daniel Poulin. They both confirmed thatthe two sides will go back to the negotiating tableon Friday(Nov. 20) – the first time since the exhibit opened. Both of them seem determined to hammer out a deal.

We are very hopeful that if the two parties are willing to compromise a little bit that we can come (out) of the negotiations with a fair and equitable agreement for the two parties, Schryer told Heritage Key.

Poulin was also optimistic that a deal can be reached.

Were hopeful that things will move along and we should have this squared away as soon as possible, he said. Cautioning thattheunionwill, “have to seewhat the museum has to offer.”

Im very hopeful that things are going to go well tomorrow, said Poulin. He said that there are three broad areas, in particular, that need to be addressed.

  • Protection for workers, at the museum, who are working on contract.
  • Bringing wages up to a level with other museums in the Ottawa area.
  • The museum needs to agree to provisions that will limit their ability to contract out jobs.

The Strikes Impact on the Exhibit

Although she didn’t know exactly how many people had visited the exhibition so far, Chantal Schryer said that the exhibit is doing very well, despite the strike, saying that there has been a lot of interest for that specific exhibition.

We also asked whether the Afghanistan government will lose any money on account of this strike. Schryer said that she doesnt have information about that agreement. Frankly Owen I dont have those details, she said.

Regardless of the number of visitors that we get here it doesnt change anything for the Afghanistan government.

But Schryer did say that the Afghanistan government is not getting a fee for each visitor who comes in. Regardless of the number of visitors that we get here it doesnt change anything for the Afghanistan government.

The money for Afghanistan is important as the country needs every dime it can get to protect its cultural sites.

I also asked whether the museums reputation has been damaged on account of this strike and whetherthis situationwill impede its ability to land big international exhibits. She said that this is not the case. The, museum has a fabulous reputation and will continue to have a fabulous reputation, she said. The CMC has always been a partner of choice with other museums.

She also declined to comment on why the two parties have not met since the exhibit opened, nearly a month ago.
I want to focus on the fact that we are back at the negotiating table tomorrow.

So, there it is -we are not going to know how the exhibit is doing until the traffic numbers are released. Also, unless the details of the agreement are released, we are not going to know for sure that the Afghanistan government is not paying a price for this strike.

To check out coverage of the exhibit’s stop in New York(which did not see a strike) check out Helen Atkinson’s piece here. Also Helen did an interview with curator Fredrik Hiebert about the incredible story behind the treasures.