OTTAWA, Canada – Ottawa’s extensive collection of museums and galleries are amongst the finest in the world. Whether interested in anthropology, the natural world, military history, fine art or modern design, the Canadian capital is the perfect holiday destination for anyone with a love for culture and heritage. At any one time there are dozens of fascinating and unique temporary exhibitions on display at institutions throughout the city. Ottawa Tourism picks 10 of the best not to be missed in 2016.
1. BUGS OUTSIDE: THE BOX (UNTIL 28 MARCH): Hurry! There is still time to catch the popular creepy crawly exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature. There are 16 larger-than-life-size models of insects including exotic butterflies and beetles. The installations, which are the brainchild of Italian sculptor Lorenzo Possenti, have been painstakingly created in intricate and beautiful detail. In addition to the sculptures, the exhibit showcases the museum’s vast insect collection with literally thousands of species on show, from the familiar to the downright weird and wonderful.
2. WORLD WAR WOMEN (UNTIL 3 ARPIL): During the First and Second World Wars, Canada stood shoulder to shoulder with Britain. Both conflicts brought enormous changes to Canadian women’s lives as they adapted to the conditions of total war in practical terms – working, volunteering and serving in uniform. Through artefacts, images, audio-visual and oral history, the World War Women exhibition at the Canadian War Museum delves into the personal stories of the women associated with these materials. Meanwhile, Air War, 1914 – 1918 (3 June – 29 January) follows the stories of nine people on both sides of the conflict as they train to fly, gather intelligence, fight aerial battles and drop bombs during the First World War. Their stories are told using over 100 authentic artefacts woven into a graphic novel presentation and provide insight into the history and enduring consequences of the first air war.
3. VIKINGS (UNTIL 17 APRIL): Experience the Canadian Museum of History’s myth-busting exhibition that has captivated a million people around the world. Vikings lays waste to the one-dimensional stereotype of bearded barbarians with horns on their helmets. Marvel instead at a fabled Scandinavian culture of surprising refinement, complexity and achievement, and a supernatural world inhabited by Thor, Odin and other gods and giants. The exhibition features a rich array of engaging interactive displays and including 500 artefacts from the Swedish History Museum, some rarely displayed outside their homeland. See why Viking reality trumps Viking myth, horned helmets and all!
4. THOMAS & FRIENDS™ – EXPLORE THE RAILS (UNTIL 1 MAY): Everyone’s favourite tank engine is currently in residence at the Canadian Children’s Museum (located within the Canadian Museum of History). Thomas & Friends™ – Explore the Rails encourages children to learn about science, technology, engineering and maths through play. Developed by the Minnesota Children’s Museum and based on the acclaimed British book and television series, the exhibition features a kid-sized, climbable Thomas the Tank Engine, an enormous hands-on Island of Sodor toy railway, and a special Tot Spot for the youngest visitors. In the Sodor Steamworks, children are able to dress up as train conductors while teaming up to fix an engine and to load cargo. Together, parents and children discover Thomas the Tank Engine’s storied history. All aboard!
5. FORGED IN FIRE: THE BUILDING AND BURNING OF PARLIAMENT (UNTIL 31 OCTOBER): On 3 February 1916, a fire ripped through Ottawa’s historic Parliament Buildings, destroying most of the Centre Block. Many important documents and paintings were amongst the items lost but, thanks to a quick-thinking librarian, the ornate Library of Parliament (called the most beautiful room in Canada) was saved. The Bytown Museum, which is in possession of the original Union Jack flag that flew over Parliament on the day of the fire, is hosting a special exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the disaster. Featuring unique artefacts and rare images, the exhibition details the events of that fateful day and its significance in Canadian history.
6. HORSE POWER! THE PAUL-BIENVENU CARRIAGE COLLECTION (24 MARCH – 17 APRIL): Exquisite craftsmanship combines with the romance of bygone days in this sumptuous exhibition of 18 horse-drawn sleighs and carriages at the Canadian Museum of History. Handcrafted between 1770 and 1950, some of these elegant conveyances once transported Catholic cardinals, Montréal millionaires and Canadian Governors General. On loan from Québec’s Musée de la civilisation, these pieces belong to the finest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America — a collection nationally recognised as a Canadian cultural treasure.
7. GOLD RUSH! – EL DORADO (8 APRIL 2016 – 15 JANUARY 2017): Relive the tumultuous days of Canada’s 19th century gold rush at the Canadian Museum of History. Travel back to 1858 and meet some of the tens of thousands of fortune-seeking prospectors who dreamed of astonishing finds, like the huge Turnagain Nugget. Find out how countless miners and entrepreneurs of various social and ethnic backgrounds gave up everything in search of a new life in Canada’s Pacific northwest. More than 280 artefacts tell the fascinating story of gold’s timeless allure, including miner’s tools and personal belongings, a real stagecoach, an exquisite gold box carved by Canadian artist Bill Reid and iconic contemporary items such as gold records and Olympic medals.
8. STAR TREK – THE STARFLEET ACADEMY EXPERIENCE (13 MAY – 11 SEPTEMBER): The Canada Aviation & Space Museum will host a world premiere exhibition this summer of particular interest to Star Trek fans: The Starfleet Academy Experience will provide visitors with an immersive experience, explaining the science behind the science fiction: tricorders, warp drive theory, phasers and teleporters. Ottawa is the first stop on a multi-city North American tour.
9. ÉLISABETH LOUISE VIGÉE LE BRUN (10 JUNE – 11 SEPTEMBER): Considered the most important female painter of her time, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was a student of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris and the official portraitist of Queen Marie-Antoinette. The exhibition, which comes to the National Gallery of Canada, traces her career through pictorial work on loan from the Château de Versailles, the Louvre and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as from major private collections.
10. ULTIMATE DINOSAURS (11 JUNE – 5 SEPTEMBER): Meet T. Rex’s bigger, badder cousin at an exhibition that will showcase large dinosaurs of the southern hemisphere. Ultimate Dinosaurs will be on display throughout the summer at the Canadian Museum of Nature and will introduce visitors to 20 newly discovered and exotic dinosaurs that evolved in isolation in South America, Africa and Madagascar. The exhibition will transform full-scale dinosaur skeletons into flesh-covered animated beasts using state-of-the-art augmented reality technology.