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Cranky Complaints-Lady… can’t get a DATE?!?

A few weeks ago, the Canadian Museum of Civilization (in Ottawa) announced that it was going back to BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini, “the year of our Lord”) for dates on anything “intended for the public,” while continuing its policy of many years to use BCE and CE on documents intended for a more academic readership.  You can read all about it in the National Post here.

Rabbi Reuven Bulka, a prominent rabbi in Ottawa, came out with a response that sounds pretty much like something my teenagers usually say:  “no-one cares.”  In fairness, the article says, he “prefers BCE because it is more inclusive, but… can live with the change.”  I can live with it, too, but I’d rather not, and I’m not going to just sit by quietly.  And if you live in Canada, neither should you.

I was dismayed to read in the National Post that you're going back to using BC and AD for dates on museum displays and other materials "intended for the public".
We have always enjoyed visiting the Museum of Civilization when visiting family in Ottawa and really appreciate its fascinating, high-quality exhibits.
I agree with Rabbi Bulka that nobody is going to become Christian or Jewish as a result of this change.  However, your "lowest common denominator" approach sends the message to Canada's non-Christian community that diversity is not worth the bother.
As a Crown corporation, your museum has a responsibility to lead the way - not follow the crowd.  In any event, I cannot believe there were that many people confused by the BCE/CE dating system.
Sent this day the nineteenth of March, in the year of your Lord (perhaps Canada's, but not mine) 2013

So - while I’ve got you all het up about this… email them quickly from this form!  There’s a 1000-character limit, which is fine for a brief note: just tell them YOU care, you want to feel included… plus, you’re not a moron, and you and your friends will be just fine figuring out dates even if they appear with BCE and CE next to them.

One thing that’s always impressed me about Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World History series is that, despite the author’s own Christian beliefs, she uses BCE and CE dates throughout her books (usually alongside BC/AD dates, but in the audiobook version, Jim Weiss uses only BCE and CE dates).

Just for fun, you can also try walking around saying the museum’s name the way I do – in overly-correctly-enunciated French!  Musée Canadien des civilisations!   (It’s on the Quebec side, so the signage pointing the way is all in French, and I switch over automatically the minute we cross the river.)

Just the “ci-vee-lee-za-sy-o” part takes some doing the first few tries.  Usually my kids have walked off in horror by the time I finally get it right.  Try it!


  1. I believe the CHIN (Canadian Heritage Information Network) data dictionary standards also recommends BCE/CE. not all the canadian museums do what CHIN recommends, but ideally they would, since they contribute to CHIN's data records and it makes it easier for people to find stuff in the database.


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