Thursday, January 31, 2019

Winter Wanderings In The Gardens

The Canadian Museum of Nature stands downtown a few blocks south of Parliament Hill. It has the look of a castle, and has been here for more than a century, first finding life as the Victoria Memorial Museum, and having a number of uses over time. These days the building houses a natural history collection. This view from the east side includes a life sized mother and baby dinosaur, covered in snow.

Much of the west side of the property is taken up with the Landscapes Of Canada Gardens, featuring plants from four ecosystems along a pathway. I like to document the Gardens in each season, even winter, when the plants are buried beneath the snow. This time my path started by the family of mammoths, sculptures that stand at the Mammoth Steppe. The plants here include ones that would have been present when the animals were at their height.

Up the path from me, on the right of the shot, a dog was up ahead, walking his human.

Signs along the way point out facts and have images of the four ecosystems. Here we have a glimpse of the iceberg sculpture, which features the Arctic Tundra section on its far side. The area on the left is Prairie Grasslands, with its long grasses and plants mostly beneath the snow this time of year.

This view from the sidewalk takes in the museum and the iceberg. Arctic plants have been transplanted into this section, amid rocky sections.

The iceberg, a steel sculpture done by Bill Lishman, actually crosses the path.

The signs for ecosystems continue, both in French and English.

Here we have a straight on look at the museum, beyond the Prairie Grasslands.

The last section is Boreal Forest. This ecosystem dominates a wide swath of Canada, and here we find trees, shrubs, and other plants along the path. The Gardens are a delight in each season, even now when they're covered in snow.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Odds And Ends Through January

I have some odds and ends today taken throughout the month. Boogie + Birdie is a shop along Elgin Street downtown that often changes its storefront windows, using some of the in-house stuffed animals for the purpose. This is what it was looking like earlier in the month.

I paid a visit to the National Gallery early in the month. On the way in I photographed the Peacekeeping Monument, which stands nearby.

Coming out afterwards, I photographed Notre Dame Basilica across the street.

This large mural hangs in an office tower downtown, depicting a beach and sky setting, but there's no information panel nearby.

Here we have an evening view over the Rideau Canal, taken from the Mackenzie King Bridge looking north and including the National Arts Centre, Parliament Hill, the government Conference Centre, and the Chateau Laurier. Skating opened up first on the Canal for this season just before New Year's.

Within the National Arts Centre, a new work of art has been installed on an upper landing, by a First Nations artist. Bob Dempsey crafted this wood sculpture, Clan Unity, which seems to have a lot of Pacific Coast influence to it.

One day earlier in the month we had a night where hoarfrost developed on the trees and bushes. It didn't last long- it generally starts dropping off things as the day arises- but it was pretty to see. This is Dundonald Park downtown.

And this was on a tree a few blocks away.

One cold clear day I happened to be around Parliament Hill and decided to get some shots in while Centre Block is still free of scaffolding. This view is taken from Wellington Street- I was careful to watch for traffic- taking in the main gate. This gate is generally only open when the Ceremonial Guard comes in and out for the Changing of the Guard during the summer months.

I finish off with this shot. Earlier in the month I showed you a shot of the Peace Tower from closer up, but wanted an additional shot of the structure that included a view of the upper part of the tower; as it narrows above the observation deck, that part of the tower was not visible in that shot. Here it is.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Past And Present Journeys

I am concluding this series today. And a note to those readers in the area- Winterlude gets underway this weekend.

Lieutenant J. Thad Johnson was part of a group of escort pilots who accompanied Charles Lindbergh on a tour of North America in 1927. It ended badly for Johnson, whose Curtiss P-1 Hawk collided with another in the group south of the city; he would die of his injuries. The American pilot received honours from his Canadian hosts in death as dignitaries officially mourned him. The accompanying display case features a photograph of the wreck, a model of his plane, and the strut of the plane itself.

The Second World War saw Ottawa become a place of refuge for the Crown Princess of the Netherlands and her daughters. Princess Juliana stayed here through that period, and one of her daughters, Princess Margriet was born here, with the government of the time passing a law to declare the maternity suite temporarily extra-territorial. A display case features photographs and copies of the birth certificates, in English and in Dutch. It is a connection that has endured, as Margriet has been over to Canada on numerous occasions.

Another visitor- The King himself. A panel and display case feature Elvis Presley's 1957 visit (long before his rhinestone jumpsuit era).

From one King to an actual Queen. 1967 was the centennial year, and Queen Elizabeth II came over for the occasion. She brought along six swans from the royal collection. Their descendents still are here today, swimming the Rideau River in warm weather and spending their time these days in winter quarters.

In 2013, six young people and their guide started walking on snowshoes from a Cree community in northern Quebec to Ottawa, reaching the capital by March. They were the Nishiyuu Walkers, calling for attention to the Idle No More movement, following the traditional routes of various First Nations peoples. Our prime minister at the time went out of his way to avoid them. 

This is a different kind of art. Joan Tenasco is the Anishinibeg artist behind this, an example of birch bark biting. The idea is to fold a thin slice of birchbark and bite it to form patterns and shapes.

2017 was our 150th anniversary, and among the visitors that year were a giant spider and a dragon horse. La Machine was the company behind a grand event of street theatre in the capital, with Kumo the spider facing off against Long-Ma the dragon horse around the landmarks of the city. A nearby video screen was set up with a short video of those few days, so I filmed it, which you can see right here.

And I finish off with this display case of gifts to the city from foreign ambassadors and dignitaries.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Faces Of The Past

Traveling in the Ottawa area doesn't really mean you're a visitor. From time immemorial First Nations people such as the Anishinaabe have called this area home and have traveled wide and far along the rivers before Contact. This birchbark canoe, done in the traditional style, was done by students in a 12 week workshop back in 2008.

Close by were these moccasins and birchbark basket.

The French explorer Samuel de Champlain first came up the Ottawa River in 1613. His journey is part of this exhibit.

A replica sextant similar to one he would have used is featured here, with a beaver pelt and carved sled and beaver.

Laura Billings was an American immigrant who came to Merrickville, in the Ottawa area, in 1805 and went to work as a teacher. A few years later she married a farmer, Braddish Billings, becoming matriarch to a family whose name is still in the community- the Billings Estate is part of her legacy. I really should get down there sometime this spring or summer.

Some of her writings were included.

Colonel By was working on the Rideau Canal when in 1827 he got a distinguished visitor, Captain John Franklin, coming back from Arctic expeditions. Nearly two decades later, Franklin would command another expedition in search of the Northwest Passage consisting of the Erebus and the Terror, an expedition that would end in death for all. I was reading Michael Palin's Erebus at the time I visited the exhibit, and remembered the exhibit we had here on the tragedy at the Museum of History. The two ships have been found in Arctic waters, reviving interest in the Franklin Expedition.

A display case nearby features items like journals, a sextant replica, and a section of a handbarrow used in the construction of the Canal.

A man who traveled far and wide across the Ottawa Valley later in the 19th century was featured. Joseph Montferrand was the legendary lumberjack whose exploits became larger than life. This display case includes a payroll sheet, an ax, and an illustration of Montferrand's fight with Irishmen on one of the bridges crossing the Ottawa River. It was said that he'd single-handedly fought 150 of them. Where's the truth and where's the conjecture, that might be the question. The accompanying panel includes a photograph of a painting that shows Montferrand later in life.

The Dawson City Nuggets came to Ottawa in 1905 to challenge the Ottawa Silver Seven for the Stanley Cup, traveling a far way from the Yukon and taking 23 days to get here. I have more from this exhibit tomorrow.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Traveller Tales

A few days ago I came through Ottawa City Hall one evening. A series of large scale portrait photographs caught my eye, and I photographed this set of four of them. Yuri Dojc, a Canadian photographer of Slovak birth, compiled North Is Freedom: The Legacy Of The Underground Railroad. The photo essay features current day descendants of freedom seeking slaves who found refuge in Canada in the decades before the Civil War. Labels identify the person or people and their area of residence, and when possible the ancestor who took a chance and followed the North Star to freedom through what was called the Underground Railroad. 

Something else nearby had drawn me back after seeing it some weeks earlier. City Hall has some exhibit space, including for art. In another spot, the artifacts of Canadian figure skater Barbara Ann Scott were on display for some years on temporary loan. At present the space is occupied by Postcards From Ottawa: Traveller Tales.

Outside, several panels you can lift to reveal the answer are placed, regarding famous visitors. It starts with musicians.

The next pair are two people from different times and different places, one in the past, and one very much in the present.

And here is another pair.

The last of these features an astronaut.

Nearby is the first of the panels. In 1980 Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to cancer, set out on a cross country marathon a day journey starting in St. John's, Newfoundland. His journey would be cut short by the return of cancer and he would die the following year, but he left a huge legacy behind, with runs in his name held each year across the world. He was in the Ottawa area at Canada Day that year.

The first face one sees inside is a familiar one to my American readers. One of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game, and a civil rights pioneer, is seen arriving at what was Uplands Airport south of the city. Ten years after he broke the colour barrier in major league baseball in 1947, Jackie Robinson was paying a return visit to the Great White North on this occasion. The year before he had started with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spent a season with the farm team, the Montreal Royals, in the minor leagues as preparation for what was to come. The fans in Montreal loved him. I'm reminded of a quote from the Ken Burns documentary on Robinson. Upon the Royals winning the championship that season, the fans hugged Robinson and lifted him on their shoulders. Sam Maltin, a sportswriter and friend who saw it all, wrote, "probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind."

For today I finish with this pair of panels of travelers. More from this tomorrow.