Underwear exhibit stripped off the schedule of federal museum

OTTAWA – Nobody will be getting “Undressed” at Canada’s Museum of Civilization.

“Undressed,” the title of an exhibition chronicling 350 years in the history of underwear, has been stripped off the museum’s schedule as it shifts its focus to Canadian history.

The Museum of Civilization — which is being renamed the Museum of Canadian History — lost $70,000 in deposits it paid to reserve “Undressed” which originated with the prestigious Royal Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Mark O’Neill, president of the Gatineau museum, said in an interview that “Undressed” didn’t fit the museum’s vocation as it changes its focus.

“In a sense, that was it,” he said.

Jean-Marc Blais, the vice-president of research and collections at the museum, added, “When there is a change in focus, afterward there is a change in plans.”

O’Neill said the show was booked by the previous president, Victor Rabinovitch.

Rabinovitch said in an interview that O’Neill never expressed any objections to the show or mentioned any problems with the budget. He was surprised to hear that it had been cancelled.

NDP MP Pierre Nantel, however, questions whether the Conservative government is behind dropping the underwear show.

He harked back to Heritage Minister James Moore’s complaints last year about “Sex: A Tell-all Exhibition” at the federal science and technology museum. Moore said the show was outside the museum’s mandate.

The preliminary contract to bring “Undressed” to Gatineau was cancelled last September, six months after it was signed.

A spokeswoman for Moore said the heritage minister was unaware of the exhibition and never spoke to museum officials.

“It is entirely up to the museum to organize an exhibition or not,” Jessica Fletcher said.

Also, O’Neill said the decision to cancel the show had nothing to do with the pending legislation.

But Nantel said he believes it’s no coincidence that the government tabled a bill in October to change the name of the museum. The bill hasn’t been adopted yet.

“One month after announcing a new vocation for the museum they decide to put the brakes on a show that fit better with the former mandate of the museum and which did not fit at all with the ideology of Mr. Moore,” Nantel said.

He wondered if the cancellation was based on “puritan morality.”

“Clearly, there has been interference.”