One of the most fascinating museums I’ve ever visited is right here in Canada, in our nation’s capital.
The origins of the Canadian War Museum can be traced back to 1880, when it first started out as a small assemblage of military pieces. Over the next 125 years the collection would grow, and so would the need for larger, more permanent space.
The museum we know today opened its doors in 2005 on the LeBreton Flats site in Ottawa. It’s an unforgettable place that connects human stories to the horrors of war. Known for housing some of the finest military holdings in the world, the museum is home to over three million artifacts and items, including personal memoirs, medals and regalia, audio and visual recordings, artillery and equipment, and more.
One of the most popular galleries, the Military Technology Collection, features rare vehicles and large weaponry, showcasing the many ‘tools of the trade’ used throughout times of war and peacekeeping. Canada’s military history is presented in four permanent Canadian Experience galleries, each highlighting significant moments that shaped our country.
The Early Wars in Canada gallery portrays the First Peoples, European contact, and the subsequent wars waged by the French and British. The South African and First World Wars gallery illustrates Canada’s first contributions to overseas battles, which led to increased international recognition and a greater sense of nationhood, but also came at great cost in lives lost.
The Second World War gallery depicts the fight against dictatorship, uniting Canada with the rest of the world in an unprecedented global military response. The fourth gallery, From the Cold War to the Present, reveals the onset of the Soviet nuclear threat, the development of peacekeeping forces, and involvement in more recent operations such as the Gulf War.
The Canadian War Museum curates many special exhibitions as well, like Liberation! Canada and the Netherlands, on physical display until March 2021, and also available online. The museum began creating online content and resources many years ago as a way to connect with Canadians across the country, and visitors from around the world. There are currently 23 online exhibitions, touching on topics such as the war of 1812, the American Revolution, Canada’s naval history, and wartime propaganda.
Memorial Hall is a quiet space meant for reflection. The grooved rectangles on its stark concrete walls reminds one of the rows of white grave markers found in war cemeteries. The only artifact present in the room is one headstone, representing Canada’s ‘unknown soldier’.
Every year on Remembrance Day, at exactly 11 a.m., the headstone is perfectly illuminated by sunlight that streams in through the one single window. It’s a powerful and symbolic moment, and one that you can experience wherever you are through livestreaming on the museum’s website at www.warmuseum.ca, as well as its various social media pages.
Lest we forget.
RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller and music lover who seeks inspiration wherever she goes. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org