Canada's auditor general found the Canadian Museum of History is putting its collections to risk with its conservation practices. People walk past the museum Saturday, March 14, 2020 in Gatineau, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Audit finds 800 items missing from Canadian history museum, no plan to deal with it

An investigation by Canada’s auditor general found the Canadian Museum of History’s conservation system is putting its collections at risk.

The federal Crown corporation manages collections for the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum, and is charged with the care of more than four million objects and historical and cultural artifacts.

The auditor’s team was particularly concerned that there was no robust way of managing the inventory.

The audit found the corporation did such a poor job keeping tabs on those objects that more than 800 were declared missing during inventory inspections between 2012 and 2022.

More than 300 items weren’t stored properly, and 15,000 lacked information about where the item came from.

“There were no plans to resolve any problems uncovered in these verifications, including finding missing items,” the auditor’s report stated.

One inventory inspection of several rooms at the Canadian Museum of History in March 2022 found more than 700 issues, including almost 80 missing items — five of which were deemed to be of great historical significance.

As of August 2022, 400 of those issues were still unresolved, with no plan or timeline to address them.

The corporation had planned to create a database of 1.1 million archeological records in 2016 as a first step toward inventorying the collection, but records for 200,000 weren’t finished by the target deadline of March 2022 and no new timeline was set.

The audit also revealed the museum did not regularlyreview which staff were allowedto access to secure locations where collections are stored, even though safeguarding historical artifacts is central to the corporation’s mandate.

The last review at the history museum was done in 2005, and the war museum’s last one was in 2021. Neither museum had plans for another review.

The museum agreed to all 11 of the auditor’s recommendations to resolve some of the issues.

Despite the “significant deficiencies,” the audit found the museum maintained reasonable systems and practices to carry out its mandate.

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