Media Room

Questions and answers on Media Coverage

Is the Canada Science and Technology Museum's energy exhibition focused on the Oil Sands?

Contrary to some media stories, the scope of the Energy: Power to Choose exhibition includes all energy sources and examines their production, transportation and distribution, as well as consumption. Each energy type that makes up the Canadian energy mix, including hydroelectricity, nuclear, wind, solar, tidal, bio gas and natural gas, as well as conventional oil and oil sands, are presented and discussed in a neutral manner. The section on oil sands represents less than 3 % of overall content (space and words),and is treated exactly the same way as other energy sources It exposes the challenges posed by their exploitation and use. The exhibition also informs visitors with the fact that Canadians are amongst the largest consumers of energy in the world.

The exhibition does not promote or condemn the exploitation of any type of energy. That choice belongs to the public. Our mission is to inform, especially in regard to the scientific and technological considerations, and we are confident we have done so with integrity.

This exhibition at the Canada Science and Technology Museum is part of a larger pan-Canadian energy literacy initiative called Let's Talk Energy that includes exhibitions at other national museums in Ottawa, a large network of science centers and public venues where Canadians can learn more on energy as well as a number of other national and international outreach activities. More information about this initiative can be found in our Fall 2011 Progress Report.

What was the role of the Advisory Committee and what measures are in place to secure the editorial and curatorial autonomy of the museum from sponsors, donors and stakeholders?

The CSTMC convened partners and energy experts in a National Advisory Committee to help in the development of the Let's Talk Energy initiative. Advisory Committee members include representatives from industry, academia, environmental organizations and government departments involved in energy issues.

All Advisory Committee members, as well as peer reviewers selected by the curatorial team were asked to provide advice on the Energy: Power to Choose exhibition. It is standard practice for the CSTMC to consult several sources for the development of exhibitions dealing with complex technological and scientific matters. All comments received were carefully considered, reviewed and selectively reflected in exhibits by the museum exhibition team. The CSTMC assumes full responsibility for the content of the exhibitions.

How were outside experts involved in the development of text for Energy: The Power to Choose?

Work on the content of the CSTM exhibition on energy began well before the Lets' Talk Energy initiative was launched in the fall of 2010, and included numerous consultations conducted since 2008 with academics, industrial partners, environmental scientists, economists, historians, and museum professionals from across the country. The research base was well established with several historical assessments and research papers focused on the topic of energy by Museum staff as well as research reports commissioned from academics, an environmental scientist, and a company that specializes in the economics of energy. External research resources included material published in peer reviewed journals, curatorial contacts with energy researchers around the world, material from the energy industry and related associations, and government publications. To ensure neutral and uniform language was reflected in the exhibition, the Museum hired a professional writer to prepare the text. A late draft text was sent for comments to all members of the National Advisory Committee. All Committee members were invited to review for factual accuracy and submit comments for consideration.

The comments from the Committee were reviewed, one by one, by the museum's team to ensure that any new or alternative information was relevant, factual and accurate. Some comments received were incorporated; others were not.

Have sponsors of the Let's Talk Energy initiative, particularly the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, imposed content in the exhibitions?

The Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC) has solicited sponsorship from a wide range of private businesses to help cover the cost of setting up this important energy literacy initiative. All sponsors are identified on the Let's Talk Energy web site and the CSTMC is proud to have the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) among these sponsors. However, sponsors do not review the content of exhibitions. However some sponsors were also part of the Let's Talk Energy Advisory Committee and were ask to advise on the content of the exhibitions. CAPP is a member of this committee.

Why is the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation soliciting the contribution of sponsors to produce its exhibitions?

The CSTMC no longer receives sufficient public funding to create and develop leading-edge and timely scientific and technological exhibitions. Like many other public institutions, the CSTMC is seeking a mix of private and public funding to ensure the renewal of its offerings and the sustainability of its operations.

In addition, considering the scientific and technological nature of its exhibitions, the museum has extensive experience in using technological artifacts and multimedia materials provided by industry to better illustrate exhibitions. This is never done without fully reviewing and considering the relevance and appropriateness of the content provided.

Does accepting sponsorship jeopardize CSTMC museums' credibility as an independent educational institution attended by thousand of school children?

Several institutions, including not-for-profit and public institutions, including media in Canada have developed the capacity to receive funding from various sources in the form of sponsorship or advertising without affecting the quality and independence of their content and credibility with the public. This is our objective.

The CSTMC has a long established tradition of developing the content of its exhibitions from a combination of internal expertise of curatorial staff and external research material from academics, industrial partners, environmental scientists, economists, historians and museum professionals from across the country. The CSTMC takes pride in its credibility with its audience and will not allow sponsors or any other institutions to have the final say in the content of its exhibitions.

In solicitation materials to sponsors, the CSTMC offered them a chance to present their content -- "your story," and specifically "information and perspective to the public that cannot be delivered through the filters of mainstream media." Wasn't this an offer to sponsors to influence the content of the exhibition?

No.

Sponsors were offered the opportunity to support the telling of an in depth story on energy. Scientific and technical stories are often truncated in mainstream media due to limitation in space or are presented through a lens of the public interest of the moment. The CSTMC aims to tell a complete story, one that can significantly help improve energy literacy in Canada. There is remarkable unanimity across the energy and environmental communities that a sustainable future for Canada will require a significant increase in energy literacy for all Canadians.

Furthermore, the CSTMC has a long practice of inviting partners to present their stories in its museums. For instance, the Canada Science and Technology Museum presents exhibitions with such stories as the development of an artificial cornea sponsored by the Ottawa General Hospital, the making of bioplastics sponsored by Auto21, and the development of optical guitars sponsored by NSERC. This is the context in which this "telling your story directly to the public" statement should be interpreted. The Corporation does not allow any sponsor to engage in conveying "policy" messages as part of the stories reflected in exhibitions. On the other hand, through programming such as Science Talk and Café Scientifiques, we welcome and encourage public debates on controversial issues, particularly when they can be informed by scientific evidence.

What is the difference between "tar sands" and "oil sands" and how are these used in the Energy: Power to Choose exhibition?

Oil sands were historically referred to as "tar sands", and therefore this terminology is reflected on some older artifacts in our Collection. Where these artifacts are used in our exhibitions, they are included in their unaltered form. However, tar is a by-product of coal and has no relationship to petroleum. Let's Talk Energy and the Energy: Power to Choose exhibition consistently use the correct term, "oil sands".

January 2012