George and Joanne MacDonald, painting by Chris Hopkins.

George F. MacDonald (1938-2020)

January 25, 2020

It is with great sadness that the Bill Reid Centre at SFU has learned of the passing of Dr. George F. MacDonald. George was an amazing person with an encyclopedic knowledge of the archaeology and ethnohistory of First Peoples all across Canada, and especially Coastal British Columbia. George rose through the ranks of Canada’s National Museum to become its President and CEO in 1983, and was the guiding force behind the conception and development of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now Canadian Museum of History), which continues as a world class institution, and a monument to the rich cultural diversity of what we now know as Canada.

George’s appreciation and respect for the First Peoples along the Northwest Coast fueled his interest in the diverse cultural expressions that occupied so much of his life. George’s work was truly his passion. Among many of his contributions to Canadian museology and heritage studies was his early embrace of technology and his recognition of how it can bring cultures together.

Following his tenure at the CMC, George played a pivotal role bringing to life the Bill Reid Foundation and Gallery in downtown Vancouver, as well as the The Bill Reid Centre here at SFU where we continue to care for the George and Joanne MacDonald Northwest Coast research collection. George was an adjunct professor in both the departments of Archaeology and Indigenous Studies at Simon Fraser University.

I had the unique pleasure of working with and getting to know George over the last 12 years. He was incredibly knowledgeable, and I am proud to call him a friend and a mentor. Simon Fraser University and the Bill Reid Centre extend our deepest sympathies to George’s friends and family in this difficult time.

Bryan Myles, Associate Director
The Bill Reid Centre at Simon Fraser University