Wednesday, November 23, 2016

At The War Museum

The present Canadian War Museum dates back to 2005, replacing an older one up beside the National Gallery after the collection had outgrown its confines. It has the shape and feel of a bunker or a battleship, depending on your point of view, and is ideally suited for its subject. It presents the story of Canadian military history as well as the context of global affairs. It rises up out of the ground on its west end, featuring grasses on its rooftop, and rises to a prominent spike on its east end, pointing towards Parliament Hill. I headed up onto the roof for the views- the pathway up there has the feel of a trench in its design, and features views of the grassy roof, as well as vantages of Parliament Hill to the east, and the nearby Ottawa River and Gatineau to the north.

As you can see, fall colours were still prominent along the riverside.

Typically on Remembrance Day in the large entry hall, one can find various displays. This year the emphasis was on the experience of black soldiers in the Canadian military down through time, including a series of panels on specific people, such as this man. I chatted with a couple of people who were manning the tables. One of them mentioned a black soldier who was part of the joint Canadian-American special operations force known as the Devil's Brigade. The other related the story of a man who was a decorated sergeant major whose family happened to live in the same town near where I grew up, as well as an officer who started out as a surgeon and wanted to be a military pilot- and did just that.

Memorial Hall is one of the two axis points of the entire museum, which is designed to be based around them. The room is stark and quiet, featuring a reflecting pool on one side and the tombstone of the Unknown Soldier on the other, topped with poppies on this occasion. The architects designed the building so that at eleven in the morning on November 11th, sunlight will be coming through an overhead window, illuminating the tombstone at that precise moment. I have no idea how they'd figure that out.

Emerging from the Memorial Hall and back into the entrance hall, I photographed this harpist playing. She might well have been the same musician playing last year in Regeneration Hall, and she was one of several musicians placed here and there in the museum that day.

The special exhibit going on at the museum is on the air war in Europe during the First World War. 

For those of us who are photographers, a relic from the past was in this exhibit. This Kodak camera was carried by a Canadian pilot back in the day. 


  1. It does look like a bunker! Beautiful skies though!

  2. Looks like an upside down ship, the third photo looks more like a gun position. I've not been tour war museum since I was a kid but hopefully next year I'll be visiting one

  3. Um belo museu gostei da sua arquitectura.
    Um abraço e continuação de boa semana.

  4. That is a big museum with a special shape.

  5. Its a big museum! I love the colourful trees by the riverside.

  6. I really like the new war memorial William, I particularly love the idea of the Memorial Hall and the light shining on the tomb of the unknown soldier, tres poignant oui. A wonderful spot to quietly contemplate.

  7. What a superb does look like a battleship. I just wish places like these would help people see the vanity and stupidity of war.

  8. Beautiful building and great description. Obviously the architect was very creative on this project and makes the whole thing that much more meaningful.

  9. Lovely tour of this building! Thank you so much for sharing, William!

  10. @Linda: it's a great design. Perfectly fitting for its environment and subject.

    @Bill: I find how it looks depends on your angle of view. Bunker, battleship, or air bomber.

    @Francesco: thank you!

    @Marianne: it certainly takes up a lot of space.

    @Nancy: I think those were all weeping willows, which tend to lose their leaves late, if at all.

    @Grace: I can't even conceive of the mathematics required to get that Memorial Hall situated in such a way that sun shines in there on November 11th precisely at that hour.

    @Lowell: this place isn't so much a celebration as a commemoration, so I think it gets the concept just right.

    @Red: this is one of those modern architectural designs that really works.

    @Linda: you're welcome. Much more to come.

  11. Very interesting architecture that seems to fit it's purpose rather well.

  12. What a beautiful looking museum. I never have been to a war museum but this tour was wonderful. Thanks William!

  13. Impressive architecture. Undoubtedly you could spend many hours there taking in the exhibits.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. that was so wild, sorry William ... i had a computer wildness, i don't know what happened ... i was commenting and suddenly it was like the twilight zone and suddenly did ask if i wanted to delete, what??!! any who ... i was saying are these memorials free to see? i can not recall when i went to memorials around here as a kid if they were or not? i wonder if our school paid like a lower cost or what? i would think so since we are a huge group. so moving. ( ;

  15. May the sun always shine on November 11th!


  16. I was at an art show at the Vet's centre at Sunnybrook and there several pics that had been taken from planes during WWll. It was very sobering.

  17. I agree with the comparison to an upside down ship....

  18. @Sharon: it does.

    @Bill: you're welcome.

    @Lauren: I know I have.

    @Beth: this museum has an admission, most of the time, though Remembrance Day was free. It has a partnership with the Museum of History, so if you go see both, you're saving by buying a ticket for both, or if you're a local, a membership that lets you go in whenever you like through the year. I imagine there are group rates for schools.

    @Janis: indeed.

    @RedPat: there's an aerial image in this museum that has that effect, showing the differences in the area of Passchendaele before and after the battle there.

    @Norma: it does have that look.

  19. Glad I don't have to lug THAT instrument back and forth. :-)

  20. The museum really looks like a bunker. The grassy area on the rooftop looks very much like historic bunkers around Puget Sound in Washington. And you've caught more wonderful fall color.

  21. Another masterpiece of design. They probably used star charts, the revolution of the Earth, and computers to figure out where to put that window for the light on the tombstone. It really makes one appreciate the ancients that designed their monuments for the sun to hit a certain spot on certain days.

  22. @Revrunner: it is a pretty big harp!

    @Jan: it certainly does.

    @Kay: I've loved this museum from the first time I walked in. The architects really did wonders.

    @Jennifer: and much more to come.

    @Mari: it does, yes.

  23. The first image reminds me of The Jetsons.