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In an era of ‘fake news,’ people are turning to museums for facts

The Canadian Press
July 9, 2017

A spike in visitors has led museums to rebrand themselves as institutions that can help separate fact from fiction and spark critical thinking.

OTTAWA—During peak tourist season, thousands of people stream into Canada’s national museums each day — and this summer is already shaping up to be even stronger than usual in Ottawa, thanks to Canada 150 celebrations.

But the spike in visits isn’t just about the summer.

Museums say it’s also about a quirk of the present age: a proliferation of false information online that has made separating fact from fiction all the more a challenge.

That’s leading people to increasingly seek out museums as a primary source of information and in turn leading institutions to think a bit differently about how they do things.

“There is so much — for lack of a better term, I will call it noise — there are so many different stories: ‘What is news? Is it fake news? What’s going on?’ ” said Fern Proulx, chief executive officer of three of Ottawa’s national museums.

“Museums are a trusted source of information. We need to be prominent in that space.”

The three museums Proulx oversees — Agriculture and Food, Science and Technology and Aviation and Space — collectively rebranded themselves last month as part of their effort toward renewed relevancy.

Their new moniker is Ingenium: Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation, a nod to the human ingenuity behind their extensive collection of more than 100,000 objects and hundreds of thousands of books, historical photographs and archival documents.

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