This week, Ottawa’s tourism industry insiders were invited to the Canadian Museum of History for a sneak peek into its new Canadian History Hall, which will officially open on July 1, 2017.
This new signature hall, which has already been three years in the making – development started in October 2012 – is the museum’s big contribution to national celebrations in 2017; the year that will mark Canada’s important 150th anniversary.
According to the museum, this new hall, which covers 40,000 square feet of space, will house the “largest and most comprehensive” exhibition about Canadian history ever created. Spanning over 15,000 years, the new hall will feature 1,800 priceless artifacts that look at 18 chapters of Canadian history including more controversial historical aspects and people such as the Plains of Abraham and Louis Riel, among others.
At the event, Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History, said the new hall was “developed by Canadians for Canadians” and will reflect the size, grandeur and diversity of the country itself. “Canadians will not only see their history reflected in the pan-Canadian story of the Hall; they will also see that we listened to their feedback in building this exhibition,” O’Neill said, adding that the hall will be “a major addition to the Museum and the cultural landscape of this country.” The museum noted in a press release dated April 5, 2016, that it worked with more than 24,000 Canadians in the project’s earliest stages to determine what the country wanted to see in the new space. “The results also guided the work of the team and were instrumental in shaping the new Hall,” the press release said.
In terms of other content, the museum said that notable Aboriginal stories and stories about Canadian women will also be told. Additionally, though not all the details are known about the specific artifacts that will occupy the space, Ottawa Tourism discovered that the oldest hockey stick known to be in existence will be on display. According to the Museum of History, the Moffat stick was handmade from a single piece of maple in Cape Breton, N.S., in the 1830’s. Other priceless artifacts to be displayed include a model canoe from 1825, Canada’s first postage stamp from 1851, the infamous D’Arcy McGee Smith & Wesson handgun that was used to shoot one of the Fathers of Confederation, handcuffs used to restrain Louis Riel during his execution in 1885 and Maurice “The Rocket” Richard’s Montréal Canadiens hockey sweater, among many others.
What’s also interesting about the three-gallery space is that it was designed by Douglas Cardinal, the same architect who designed the museum itself back in the 1980’s. According to Cardinal, the museum’s flowing and curved lines continue into this new, bright and airy space, reflecting the fact that Ottawa itself was shaped by fast-flowing water. “I wanted it to flow into other spaces,” Cardinal said, adding the new hall includes aspects of the Ottawa River and the Chaudière Falls. “This space is a great opportunity to reflect Canadian history,” he noted.
According to the museum, in the new hall, Canada’s history will be told in chronological order going from Early Canada to the British Conquest in 1763, to Colonial Canada under the British Empire (1763 to 1914) and Modern Canada (1914 to today). Also, the middle of the exhibition opens up to a high-ceiling hall that is home to a large-scale map of the country. Walk down Cardinal’s expansive and twisting ramp, which mimics the lines of the Ottawa River, and learn more about Canada and its provinces through the map. The map is only one of the new hall’s 65 interactive elements, the Museum of History said.
But the creative brilliance of the Canadian History Hall doesn’t stop there! Along with the sneak peek on Tuesday, the museum also called on Canadians to help find images for the hall’s Gateway; a long hallway that will lead in and out of the exhibition. And the best part? This colourful, cleverly designed Gateway opens up onto the museum’s iconic Grand Hall, which is home to the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles and provides fantastic views of the Parliament Buildings and the Ottawa River.
For now, this is all the information we have to share on this new installation, which will appropriately be opened to the public on Canada Day in 2017. We will share more details as they become available.
Want to know about more 2017 events going on in Ottawa? Visit Ottawa Tourism’s 2017 page and start planning your trip.