Saturday, July 21, 2018


The Earth Gallery is the next major section of the Museum of Nature, with displays about types of rocks, volcanic and seismic activities, the origins of the Earth, minerals and crystals, and much more. The collection includes meteorites.

Various minerals and gems, often quite colourful, are on display here.

This is one of the more interactive items in this area. A camera and different controls allows you to metamorph your face. These rate as off the wall selfies.

A cave has been created in the gallery, and I like to stop in and have a peek. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Far North

Today I move into another of the museums I visited on Canada Day. The Canadian Museum of Nature is a few blocks south of Parliament Hill, occupying a building constructed in Gothic Revival and Scottish Baronial styles. Its origins date back to the 1840s with the establishment of the Geological Survey of Canada, and the building dates to the early 20th century, established as the Victoria Memorial Museum (which is still inscribed above the main entrance). It's been a National Historic Site since 1990. Aside from museum use, the building was home to our Parliament for several years after Centre Block was destroyed in the 1916 fire. A renovation was completed in 2010 that included the erection of a glass tower called the Queens' Lantern (in honour of both Victoria and Elizabeth), which replaced a tower that had stood here for the first ten years of its existence. Unstable soils beneath the tower had required the removal of much of that structure; the glass tower is a modern counterpart that is much lighter and yet doesn't detract from the older part of the building. This view looks out onto it from the top floor, which is where I usually start visits to this museum, working my way down through galleries. A large jellyfish installation hangs down from the ceiling.

The Arctic Gallery opened last year, and is on the top floor. The first thing one sees on entry are these slabs of ice, lit up with moving images. The ice is real- the meltwater is collected beneath and refrozen onto the surface at night.

The gallery was created in collaboration with Inuit peoples of the north, and the walls are colourfully decorated. Its theme shows the wildlife and the people of the Far North, stressing the fragile nature of a wildly diverse ecosystem in the face of climate change.

There is a wealth of biodiversity in the Far North, like birds and muskoxen.

Shifting colours in fur are part of the displays. Some animals change their look from winter to summer, as is the case with the Arctic Fox and the Arctic Hare.

This view takes in the beluga and narwhal suspended from the ceiling, and the caribou and ringed seal on the central platform.

The Arctic wasn't always cold. 20 million years ago there were temperate forests, and it was home to species such as puijila darwini, a relative to current day seals.

This formidable polar bear is at the heart of the gallery.

These birds caught my eye.

The human element of life in the north is also examined, particularly in terms of the Inuit, who have lived here for thousands of years and who have learned how to live off the resources of the land. Traditional styled clothing is displayed.

Leaving the gallery, I came across this display screen with a series of photographs, each rotating to be prominently displayed for thirty seconds or so. I caught them all together before the next one would take up the bulk of the screen.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Medak And Medusa

The Canadian War Museum's conclusion of the Cold War leads into other more recent events. First of these to be examined is Desert Storm. Canadian forces were part of the international coalition that rose up after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, with Navy and Air Force elements involved. Three paintings are featured among the exhibits, each by Ted Zuber, whose Korean War work I showed you yesterday. Replenishment At Sea- Gulf War is the first, and depicts a Canadian destroyer, Terra Nova, after receiving supplies from another Canadian ship, Protecteur.

Loaders shows Canadian women serving in theatre during the war, preparing to arm a fighter jet at the Canadian base of operations in Qatar.

Night Run depicts soldiers patrolling their base during the operations in the Gulf. While Navy and Air Force participated actively in the coalition efforts, it was soldiers in armoured vehicles like this guarding the operating bases in theatre.

The Nineties moved on, and Canadians were involved in peacekeeping operations on behalf of the UN that turned out to be anything but. The Rwandan civil war exploded into full fury while the world ignored it. Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian career soldier, was the general in command of the outmanned peacekeeping mission, and ultimately could do nothing but bear witness to slaughter while the world turned away (his book, Shake Hands With The Devil, is a haunting account of what happened). It has had a lasting effect on him personally, as well as those under his command. There are several displays and artifacts here about Rwanda, but this panel caught my eye because it offers more of a sense of hope- child soldiers who have moved away from the madness, with the general among them.

Yugoslavia was another powderkeg in the 90s, and Canadians were on the ground during the conflicts that ripped that former nation to shreds. Firefight In The Medak Pocket was originally painted (and reproduced here on the wall) by artist Katherine Taylor, who accompanied Canadian troops into Croatia. Canadian and French units came into the village of Medak to enforce a ceasefire agreement and came under attack from Croatian forces. Over the next fifteen hours they held their ground and exchanged fire until the Croatian forces were driven back.

9/11 of course finds its way into the story- a section of airplane fuselage recovered from the World Trade Centre is displayed here. After that attack, the Canadian military deployed into Afghanistan.

The front of this G-Wagen was destroyed by an IED planted by Afghan insurgents during Canadian operations in that country. Protective armour saved the soldiers and one journalist inside. The accompanying panel features a photograph of one of them done after the incident.

War: Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan was painted by Douglas Laing in 2009, depicting part of Operation Medusa. It's a personal painting, as the artist's son took part in the 2006 battle.

This stained glass window was made by artist Theo Lubbers, a Dutch citizen who immigrated to Canada after the Second World War. For years it was found at the Dutch consulate in Montreal. Now it resides here, in the Legion Hall of Honour, where a number of different items related to commemoration are placed.

The path leads on, down to Regeneration Hall, where a series of casts are placed. Walter Allward designed the massive Vimy Memorial in France at Vimy Ridge, site of a major World War One victory for Canadians. The Memorial is adorned with sculpted allegorical figures. These casts are his originals, larger than human, but smaller than the final sculptures on the Memorial. They have a permanent place in the museum.

Regeneration Hall leads out into Lebreton Gallery, where military vehicles and equipment from multiple nations and multiple eras are put on display. That happens to include the round containers you see at the heart of this shot. They're a legacy of the Second World War, a weather station called Kurt. It was placed by German sailors at the north edges of Labrador, transmitting weather data back to the German navy for a few days until it went offline. It was forgotten for decades after the war; any passerby in the remote region might have seen the markings that were made to look as if it was Canadian government issued and just taken it at face value. A German researcher in the 1980s looking through records found its existence and sent on word to Canadian authorities. Now Kurt is at home here.

The multitude of vehicles includes that Canadian fighter jet mounted overhead, and Lebreton Gallery is always a busy spot, especially so on Canada Day.

I finish with this large mural, one of several mounted on a wall overlooking the way out. The Taking Of Vimy Ridge, Easter Monday 1917 is by Richard Jack, depicting the technology behind the Canadian victory of the First World War battle. Tomorrow we'll move onto another museum.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Cold War And Peace

The Cold War dominates the next section at the War Museum. This is the M3 Half Track, an armoured vehicle that was in use during the Korean War, which is examined in this section.

Ted Zuber was a soldier during that war, fighting as part of the Canadian efforts as a parachutist and sniper. He had enlisted while still an art student, and came away from the war with memories that later fueled his art. Several of his paintings hang here in this section. Reverse Slope finds soldiers in downtime at the front.

New Year's Eve captures Zuber's time in tunnels near the front, a particularly tense final day of the year with enemy grenades wrecking havoc.

A mock up of a situation room you might have found at a military base in the 70s or 80s is found here. The screens include stats on NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and feature war game scenarios of World War Three.

Peacekeeping is also examined in this section. The blue beret of UN peacekeepers is a familiar sight, and one is on display.

It was Lester Pearson, our esteemed prime minister, who was critical in devising the concept of peacekeeping during the Suez Crisis, at a time when he was foreign minister. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts- the original is displayed today at our foreign ministry, while a replica is displayed here with other service medals for Pearson, who as a young man had served in the First World War.

This painting is titled Hercules Aircraft At Ismaila, Egypt, by Colin Williams, showing a Canadian peacekeeping operation from 1974.

The October Crisis of 1970 is also examined. The Front de Liberation de Quebec, a terrorist group, kidnapped a British diplomat and kidnapped and murdered a provincial cabinet minister. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act to respond to the crisis, and he can be seen on a display screen here, speaking to a reporter at the time. CBC reporter Tim Ralfe asked the PM at the height of the crisis how far he might go in terms of suspending civil liberties to maintain order, and Trudeau's famous response was "well, just watch me."

Here we have artillery equipment of the era.

An editorial cartoonist by Adrian Raeside is featured here from the 1980s- the time of Brian Mulroney and government contract scandals. Raeside has left his days of editorials behind him, but you might know him from the daily comic strip The Other Coast.

As the Cold War moved into its final decade, new faces emerged in leadership on both sides.

The fall of 1989 and the end of the Cold War is examined as the Cold War section concludes. A section of the Berlin Wall is given a prominent spot. The federal government hosted a conference of foreign ministers in the wake of that autumn to determine the future of the two German states, and the Wall section was given to Canada as a gesture of thanks. On the side that would have faced West Berlin, it has graffiti. On the side facing East Berlin, there is none.