Saturday, November 16, 2013

Into The Museum

The idea of a Canadian War Museum goes all the way back to the late 19th century, and for many years, the collection was housed in a building downtown. I'll show you that place sometime, but there came a point when the need for more space became pressing, and the new museum was erected to the west of the downtown core, in the area called Lebreton Flats, opening in 2005.


Every once in awhile, architects get the job done right. In this case, the building is designed with the subject clearly in mind. From a distance, it looks like a bunker or an airplane, depending on the eye of the beholder. Its roof holds a field of poppies and commanding views of the surroundings. And its interior houses a collection of military art, artifacts, vehicles, and much more, while telling the story of Canada in warfare in the context of world history. It is a stark and solemn place, as it must be.


The triangular spike you see above is Regeneration Hall, one of two fundamental aspects of the building (it has a direct view towards the Peace Tower). I'll have to go back in there sometime, because my mobile memory card ran out of space before I got there, and there are things in that hall I want you to see. It lines up with the other core element in the building: Memorial Hall. Behind the glass wall is Lebreton Gallery, which you'll see something of in future posts.

Memorial Hall is a deceptively simple room, but it is in fact the heart of the museum. The walls remind one of the gravestones of soldiers, a common theme in the museum, where corridors are often at sharp, harsh angles, with stone rectangular panels mimicking tombstones. There is but one artifact in the room, lit by a window from above and soft interior lights. Unfortunately the pic I took of it didn't turn out well (curses!). It is the original gravestone of the man whose body now rests in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The entire museum is built with this room in mind. The architect designed the museum so that on November 11th, at eleven in the morning, if the sun was shining, it would illuminate the tombstone through the window. I have no idea of the math involved in figuring out how that works. Memorial Hall is a quiet, solemn space, and an ideal place to begin the tour of the museum.


The museum follows the chronological order of history, starting with the first traces of pre-Contact conflicts among First Nations peoples. There are extensive panels, artifacts under glass, and displays in life size, such as this, which depicts the partnerships of Europeans and Native peoples, and the blending of their technologies and ways of life.


I'll leave off for today with this mortar, typical of the artillery used during the French and Indian War. This one was used by the French during the siege of Louisbourg, in Nova Scotia.


22 comments:

  1. If only we could learn from previous wars and not have any more.

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  2. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this.
    Seems you have the same weather as us.

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    1. It's been something of a damp fall at times here.

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  3. Thanks for these reminders that we must go there on our next trip to Ottawa. Enjoying your blog very much.

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    1. It's one of a good number of museums here. Over time I'll be going into the others.

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  4. I am not sure it is a good idea to present the guns and cannons, even the old one, in the museums. If we do not want the next war, let`s show the tragedy. Is my point of view. Greetings from Bergen.
    If I can, I will show You city Bergen in 1945, if not just delete this comment.
    http://everydaybergen.blogspot.no/2013/07/bergen-1944-45.html

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    1. An astonishing difference between then and now.

      The mission statement of this museum was to show all sides of warfare, not just equipment, but the tragedies of it as well, and the ordinary life at home and abroad. Where there are weapons on display, it's generally in context with the times.

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  5. Another nice series of photos to tell a story. Thanks. I agree that the architects worked overtime to produce this environment. I'd love to see it.

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    1. The architecture over at its sister museum, the Museum of Civilization, is also ideal to take in.

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  6. It is a sad place but maybe we learn some lessons from such a place!

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  7. Great photo of the mortar!
    I like that they include exhibits depicting the time before the Europeans arrived.

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    1. There is quite a bit of it. When I get over to the Museum of Civilization, there's a lot of First Nations material there.

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  8. Very interesting. How sad, too. I really wish the leaders who take us into war were the ones who were actually fighting and not sending someone else's children in their stead. Just sayin'.

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    1. You look at the ranks on so many memorials, and it's inevitably enlisted men and junior officers. It wasn't always that way...

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  9. I wandered into this museum because it was raining... and stayed for most of the day! I mostly wanted to see the architecture (before going to the Museum of Civilization, another stunning beauty) and was surprised at how fascinating the displays were.

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    1. I have to get over there before a temporary exhibit closes.

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