a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Jun, 2017

Andrea’s Tuesday: a visit to the ARCTIC, via the Canadian Museum of Nature

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Ottawa

To review: every other Tuesday is my day off and I’m trying to use this time to recharge my batteries. No work, no meetings, minimal errands. Last time around I paid a visit to Ritchie’s Feed and Seed and did a bit of gardening.

It was our eldest daughter’s last day of school on Monday. And when I say “last day,” I mean, last day of high school, forever.

Guess who just had her last day of high school ever? (!!)

A post shared by Andrea Tomkins (@quietfish) on

So, of course, when Tuesday rolled around I knew who I was taking to the special media preview of the newest gallery to open at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

First, allow me to backtrack for a moment. Ottawa folks may remember that the Museum of Nature was renovated a few years ago. The permanent galleries were overhauled as well, and they didn’t all reopen at the same time. Well, drumroll please, the Arctic gallery is the last of the permanent exhibit spaces to open. Called the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, it’s been years in the making. It opens to the public today, so I was happy to bring the eldest along to get a sneak peek yesterday!

The underlying idea of the gallery, at least to me, is that the north isn’t just a place, it is a people, and it is all of us. Of course, the museum explores those biological connections in the way they do best, by guiding our path to learning and showing us the flora and the fauna that are found there. But there’s a bit of a departure here, as the exhibition also shines a spotlight on the people who have called the north home for over millennia. This aspect reminded me of a past exhibition at the museum called Whales Tohora. (Remember that?) It also paid homage to the indigenous culture, but in that case it was that of New Zealand. But I digress.

Of all places perhaps, life in the Arctic is so inextricably connected. It’s a complex ecosystem. How can anything survive? The answer is, of course, that people, plants, and animals have found a way to extract energy from whatever they can in a region that is so famously hostile.

The folks at the Museum of Nature is really good at educating the masses in a fun way, and they always do it with a variety of interactive displays, information boards, pictures, and things to see and touch. The addition of videos gives us the opportunity to learn from researchers who are in the field, almost eye-to-eye, to great effect.

Arctic, at the Canadian Museum of Nature

Of course, there are things both Great and Small to behold as well:

ARCTIC, at the Canadian Museum of Nature

One of the most compelling displays in the Arctic gallery is an installation called ‘Beyond Ice’ that greets visitors at the entrance. At its very core, it is a film that is projected on slabs of ice, but that would be a poor way of describing it because it is really cool (both figuratively and literally):

Beyond Ice, at the Canadian Museum of Nature

Imagine a dark room. It feels a bit cool, but at first, you’re not sure why. That’s when you realize that, glowing in front of you, are large slabs of ice that are clearly meant to be the focal point of the room in which you find yourself. The ice slabs (and yes, it’s real ice, and visitors are encouraged to touch them) have custom-built freezers at their core. They will always stay cold, and condensation is continuously created and frozen on the surface. They look like icebergs that have been heaved up at the water’s edge, and it is across the face of these slabs that a looping film (a co-production between the National Film Board the Canadian Museum of Nature) is projected. Sounds, images, shapes, and video give you a sense that the ice is telling you its own origin story. And it’s a complicated story, an old story with a very special sense of place. What is the future of this place? Where is it going? How is it changing? These questions have been tumbling around my brain ever since.

Another point of interest, a giant mural by Inuk artist, Nancy Saunders.

Entering the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery

This remarkable piece, titled Ilurqusivut (Our Ways), spans seven walls. It’s an optical illusion; the proper term is actually anamorphosis. The work is fragmented but appears as a single piece when viewed from one angle. (There are footprint decals on the floor that indicate where people should stand.) It’s a two-dimensional work presented in three dimensions. It represents so much of the rich northern culture but also, in its own way, the challenges northern Canadians have faced. It reminds us there is no one way to understand or experience northern life and culture; no single lens that can view it all. There are only pieces that we can try to put together in order to better understand the whole.

(You can find more information about the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery on the Museum of Nature website.)

After poking around the gallery, the eldest and I decided to stay for lunch. Have you ever been to the Nature Cafe at the Museum of Nature? It’s actually pretty good. We had a chicken wrap and grabbed a pasta salad to share. We ate it outdoors, on the quad that is right next door to the cafeteria. Here was the view, looking up:

Looking up, at the Canadian Museum of Nature

It was a gorgeous day and I was loathe to cut it short so we walked around Elgin Street. Top stop on this part of the tour: Boogie + Birdie. It’s quite possibly my new favourite shop. Have you ever been? Ack. There was SO.MUCH.GREAT.STUFF that I am already planning a return visit. The eldest bought a coffee mug (she’s thinking ahead to university cereal consumption) and we went back home.

All in all, it was a pretty good day, for a Tuesday.


1 Response to "Andrea’s Tuesday: a visit to the ARCTIC, via the Canadian Museum of Nature"

1 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Andrea's Tuesdays: a visit to Ottawa's Tavern on the Hill - a peek inside the fishbowl

August 2nd, 2017 at 1:28 pm

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[…] To review: every other Tuesday is my day off and I’m trying to use this time to recharge my batteries. No work, no meetings, minimal errands. Last time I visited the Arctic, via the Canadian Museum of Nature. […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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