The New Canadian War Museum

May 1, 2005 by Legion Magazine

PHOTO: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM

PHOTO: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM

The title of our main story says it all: The Dream Comes True.

We have a new Canadian War Museum opening in Ottawa on May 8, 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

The museum was a long time coming. Its arrival signals a change in government attitude to embrace the premise that the sacrifices of Canadians in time of war are central to our history as a nation and must not be forgotten.

It was not always so. The museum was founded in 1880 but actually vanished for 46 years, from 1896 to 1942. In 1967 the war museum ended up in the 1904 building vacated by the National Archives.

As well as the government, many individuals, organizations and groups should share in the credit for the turnaround, including The Royal Canadian Legion. Here at Legion Magazine we like to think that the long push that culminated in the new museum actually began with our February 1988 issue, which bore the cover line Mothballed History. Inside, the main story was titled Shabby And Shunned.

PHOTO: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM

PHOTO: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM

The dramatic east side of the museum incorporates glass and copper.

The article showed that the federal government had largely ignored and long underfunded the war museum. The building was woeful and could only display a small percentage of its holdings. So bad was the situation that in 1990 the government appointed a Task Force On Military History Museum Collections in Canada, but its 1991 report did not turn the tide.

The matter came to the fore again in 1997-98 when the government proposed the addition of a Holocuast gallery to the old building. Although not stated publicly, it appears the gallery was conceived to revive public interest and generate operating revenue. What it attracted instead was a great public controversy.

During the furor, Legion Magazine published a March 1998 editorial campaigning for a different direction. We said, in part, “…Expansion of the present building or expansion to the adjoining mint would be definite improvements. However, such expansion may preclude the best solution of all—the creation of a brand new structure built as a war museum. The federal government has a chance to do the right thing and correct a historical wrong.”

The pace of activity quickened. The Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs held hearings on the war museum’s future. Noted historian Jack Granatstein, appointed the museum’s director, championed a new facility. Finally, in March 2000, the government announced a new building. The site was later changed, but the dye was cast. A volunteer support group, the Friends of the Canadian War Museum, played a sterling role with its Passing The Torch campaign raising more than $15 million to fund exhibitions, displays and outreach programs. Prominent in that total was a $600,000 donation by Dominion Command of the Legion.

PHOTO: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM

PHOTO: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM

In this special section you’ll see what the dream was all about. We believe the new museum will become a national treasure. Come and see it for yourself, if at all possible.

The Editor

The Dream Comes True

From its humble beginnings in 1880 as a collection of militia memorabilia, the Canadian War Museum has grown to become one of the world’s foremost museums of military history. Housing some 500,000 artifacts, including documents, photographs and films, the museum is also home to one of the world’s most important collections of artillery and military vehicles, as well as the renowned Beaverbrook War Art Collection.

For over 35 years, from 1967 to 2004, the museum was located in a converted archives building on Sussex Drive in downtown Ottawa. When the War Trophies Building was demolished in 1983 to make way for the National Gallery of Canada, the museum’s collections were transferred to Vimy House, a converted streetcar barn near LeBreton Flats, just west of the downtown area. Space constraints at the Sussex Drive facility meant that only a small percentage of the collections could be displayed at any one time.

In the mid-1990s—as Canada celebrated the 50th anniversary of D-Day and the 50th anniversaries of V-E Day and V-J Day—public interest in Canada’s military heritage began to grow. It quickly became clear that the existing Canadian War Museum (CWM), could no longer be used to express or exhibit this growing interest. And so something would have to change.

The Government of Canada responded and made available to the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC) some $113 million for the construction of a new CWM. It then became the highest priority for the CMCC’s board of trustees and senior management to find the balance of the required funds. The corporation reallocated $7 million from its funds and began outlining the framework for a national fundraising campaign.

A group of dedicated volunteers, known as The Friends of the Canadian War Museum, went into action with its Passing The Torch fundraising campaign. Supported by generous donations from across the country and around the world, the campaign ultimately surpassed the group’s $15-million goal. The Friends also began raising awareness of the importance and value of a national museum of military history.

Regeneration—The Architectural Concept

Although Ottawa’s decommissioned Rockcliffe air base was the original location chosen for the new museum, within months the federal government decided on a new site. Ottawa’s LeBreton Flats—once a busy industrial hub—had lain fallow for nearly 40 years. It had long been felt that the prime riverfront area deserved a major centrepiece and, over the years, ideas for the site had included everything from an aquarium to a theme park. The new home of the CWM was to become that centrepiece, in turn sparking a complete redevelopment and rejuvenation of one of the National Capital Region’s most historic areas.

The theme of the CWM is Regeneration, and from the beginning, the architectural team of Moriyama and Teshima and Griffiths Rankin Cook knew the theme would be the signal concept behind the design of the new building. Just as the landscape recovers and heals itself following the devastation of war, the museum would emerge from its own scarred landscape. Its external lines would evoke the angular contours of lost trenches and earthworks while the grass-covered roof would recall the regenerative forces of nature. Despite nature’s ability to recover, the land never forgets—nor should its people, as the museum itself states in a series of small windows high on its walls, spelling out in Morse code: Lest We Forget/N’oublions jamais.

To the north and west, the building appears to emerge from the Ottawa River. To the east, its acute angles and copper roof link it to Parliament Hill and the Peace Tower. To the south, a large park and parade square are being developed. At the southeast corner, large windows give passersby a view of the museum’s world-class collection of military vehicles and artillery. A walkway over the building and across the grass roof gives pedestrians a dramatic view of the Peace Tower and a connection to the riverfront. The museum also provides public spaces for non-paying visitors, including direct access to the river through the museum’s main lobby. It is hoped that this feature will encourage people to visit and learn more about Canada’s military heritage.

The interior is equally evocative. The walls are made primarily of concrete, with rough joints clearly visible. Walls emerge sharply from floors at unusual angles. Slight slopes in some of the floors create a sense of instability. Most spaces have been left somewhat austere, enabling visitors to fill the space with their own thoughts, memories and emotions.

A facility as modern as this could not have been built without the most modern of tools. The building has such complex geometrical forms that it would have been almost impossible to generate the necessary design and construction drawing without sophisticated computer modelling. Nor could the museum have been built without attention to the most up-to-date facility infrastructure. A museum whose theme is regeneration must include design and construction strategies that support energy conservation, recycling and sustainability. The interior concrete walls incorporate a recycled material known as fly ash. Water from the nearby river is used for mechanical cooling, non-drinking uses and ground irrigation. The grass-covered roof is self-seeding, reducing the need for fertilizers and other chemicals. And copper from the reclad roof of the Library of Parliament has been recycled throughout the building, covering walls in the lobby and in the LeBreton Gallery. The latter houses a collection of military vehicles and artillery.

Building The Dream

From the onset, the National Capital Commission’s role in this project has been invaluable. The first site chosen by the Government of Canada was in the east end of Ottawa, near the Canada Aviation Museum. In early 2001, Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps announced the new CWM would be built just west of Parliament Hill, in an area known as LeBreton Flats. The Flats had been vacant since the late 1960s, and the National Capital Commission, (NCC), was eager to partner with the government and the CMCC to kick-start the re-development of LeBreton Flats, which will be a community, with cultural institutions, residential and commercial spaces.

Ground was broken in November 2002. From the start, the opening was scheduled for May 8, 2005—the 60th anniversary of VE-Day. The date was more than a commemorative anniversary, it was also intended as the fulfilment of a promise to Canadian veterans of World War II. Many of them were already over 80 years of age when construction began, and it was felt that everything possible should be done to ensure that their contribution be recognized in their lifetime.

This meant, however, that there would be only 30 months from groundbreaking to the opening. There is no underestimating the challenge this posed. It was the first major cultural project in the region in over a decade, and most projects of this size take at least four years, rather than 2 1/2. Most challenging of all, however, was the fact that the site’s industrial legacy had to be cleaned up first.

Groundbreaking was followed by major decontamination efforts by the NCC, including the unexpected need to build a collection basin for the contaminated groundwater that kept leaching into the site’s foundation. Once environmental issues were dealt with and construction could begin in earnest, it became one of the most intensive building projects the region has ever seen. More than 32,000 cubic metres (113,000 cubic feet) of concrete—enough to pour nearly 80 miles of sidewalk—were used in the building, along with 3,750 tonnes of reinforcing steel. At peak times, there were as many as 350 to 400 construction workers on the site, and it is estimated that, by the time the building opens, more than 1.25 million man-hours will have been spent.

It took less than a year and a half to enclose the 440,500-square-foot building and begin interior finishing. By the spring of 2004, large artifacts were being moved out of the Sussex Drive facility and over to Vimy House for restoration. By the summer of 2004, these same artifacts were being installed in the museum’s LeBreton Gallery. By the fall of 2004, Vimy House had been closed and its collections were being transferred to the new museum. In September 2004, the Sussex Drive facility was closed to the public, and in January 2005, all administrative staff had been moved to their new offices.

From first to last, the CWM project has defied expectations. The Passing The Torch fundraising campaign is the most successful fundraising drive ever undertaken by a Canadian or national cultural institution. And, by sticking to an almost impossible timeline from groundbreaking to opening, the museum has confounded everyone who has asked, “Yes, but can it really open in May 2005?” Our Canadian military has long been able to accomplish the seemingly impossible; a museum dedicated to their contribution could do no less.

Interpreting Conflict—The Permanent Exhibition Concept

As part of its planning process, the CWM began developing a storyline to help present and interpret the role of conflict in the development of Canada and throughout human history. The design team of Haley Sharpe of Leicester, England, and Origin Studios of Ottawa was chosen to bring the storyline to life. Working in close collaboration with war museum historians and curators, they developed a permanent exhibition that not only expresses the established storyline in a moving and thought-provoking way, but also adds to the museum’s dramatic architecture.

Among the design challenges was the need to provide a modern museum experience that was not only informative, but also multi-dimensional and interactive. Most of all, the design needed to achieve a balance between historical facts and the intensely personal aspects of Canada’s military history. CWM historians had grouped the interpretive storylines into four overall themes: Geography, Politics, Brutality and Survival. Because every conflict is unique, it was felt that all four themes needed to be integrated throughout the museum, as well as in each section of the permanent exhibition.

The design team paid particular attention to the dramatic impact of each area. The team devoted a great deal of time to developing the rhythm and pace of the storyline, balancing peace and war, drama and pathos, conflict and resolution. The amount of information being presented, the various forms it took and the emotional content were all balanced in order to avoid confusing or numbing the visitor.

Because this was a new building, the design team was able to integrate its exhibition concept with the architecture. Transitional zones were carefully designed, enabling visitors to feel as though they are walking into a living archive. The physical forms of the exhibition components—text panels, displays, artifact cases —also echo the shapes and forms of the building, reinforcing the spartan quality of the building and the notion that war is a disorienting and disturbing experience.

The permanent exhibition is also celebratory. It honours the sacrifices of ordinary Canadians, and reminds visitors of the role of Canadians in both making and preserving peace over the past century and more. The starkness of the unfinished concrete walls is relieved, throughout the museum, by outstanding works of art from the museum’s Beaverbrook War Art Collection. Colourful nose art from WW II bombers lines the walls of the corridor leading to the LeBreton Gallery. And everywhere, the museum’s permanent exhibition celebrates the human story behind any conflict—whether it is the face of a sailor gazing down from an angled wall, a firsthand account of an aerial dogfight or a walk through a WW II factory.

Together, the architecture and the permanent exhibition work to provide visitors of all ages with a comprehensive and cohesive museum experience. Although designed to share Canada’s military heritage with the widest possible audience, the permanent exhibition has also been conceived as a means of evoking an emotional response to human conflict, and a reminder of the price Canadians have been willing to pay to preserve the values we share as a nation.

Be Our Guest—Visitor Services

Visitors who were familiar with the old CWM will certainly appreciate the wide range of amenities available in the museum’s new home. In order to provide the comforts that must be a part of every modern museum experience, museum staff studied the successes and failures of many other museums around the world.

Security, comfort and convenience were all taken into account. There are more than 300 indoor parking spaces, and the dedicated group entrance is spacious and welcoming. The museum’s sunlit riverfront cafeteria has a seasonal outdoor terrace. There is also a free cloakroom, and free strollers and wheelchairs for use. The museum’s boutique offers fine commemorative items as well as books, posters, models and more.

Best of all, ease of access has been taken into account throughout. The exhibitions are all fully wheelchair-accessible, with gently sloping floors and ramps. In addition, there are no long walks to get to the main exhibition areas, and many spaces are set aside for rest and reflection.

Spotlight On Art And Exhibitions

At the old museum, lack of space and proper climate controls were two of the greatest drawbacks for displaying works of art from the museum’s Beaverbrook War Art Collection. This has been remedied in the new building. In addition to the special exhibitions and works of art displayed in the Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae Gallery, paintings are found on virtually every wall. Portraits line the halls leading to the administrative offices and ateliers. Large works grace the walls of the Barney Danson Theatre. Sculptor Walter Allward’s plaster maquettes for the Vimy Memorial in France have found a permanent home in Regeneration Hall. Art is one of the most immediate and evocative expressions of the human condition, and it is fitting that art can now be given pride of place in a museum dedicated to interpreting and presenting the human side of war.

The exhibition program has also been greatly improved and expanded. The museum’s permanent exhibition space, which includes The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour as its centrepiece, features a timeline of conflict throughout Canadian history. The timeline stretches from early conflicts and sophisticated military systems among First Peoples, through wars of empire fought on Canadian soil, through two world wars to Canada’s participation in peacetime operations over the past 50 years or more. In addition to telling a story and providing visitors with a highly interactive museum experience, the permanent exhibition also encourages them to reflect on the place of conflict in human history, and what it means to them on a personal level.

In addition, special exhibitions enable visitors to explore some of the themes of the permanent exhibition in greater depth. Over the next 18 months, the museum will be presenting four new special exhibitions, including a major world premiere.

Art and War: Australia, Britain and Canada in the Second World War will be the museum’s signature exhibition throughout the summer months. Opening on the same day as the museum itself, Art and War is a world premiere exhibition, featuring art treasures from three of the world’s finest military history museums: the Imperial War Museum, the Australian War Memorial and, of course, the CWM. This major joint exhibition explores how Canadian, Australian and British painters experienced the conflict as it was happening. Featuring many works that have never been presented in public before, Art and War offers a compelling look at one of the greatest conflicts in history from a profoundly human point of view. Presented May 7 to Sept. 25, 2005.

Canada’s Gunners celebrates the accomplishments and service of the Royal Canadian Artillery over the past 150 years. Featuring interactive screens, artifacts and text panels, this exhibition has been timed to coincide with the issue of a new postage stamp depicting one of Canada’s most venerable military units. Presented in collaboration with the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery Museum in Shilo, Man., from May 26 to Nov. 2005.

Weapons of Mass Dissemination takes a fascinating look at the various strategies and techniques used to create wartime propaganda during the first half of the 20th century. From purely informational posters detailing proper blackout procedures, to disturbing and inflammatory images of the victims of an aerial bombardment, this exhibition examines the many faces of propaganda in times of conflict. In addition to the usual tools, such as posters and information sheets, the exhibition also includes less conventional items, including housewares, children’s books and other artifacts. The exhibition was originally produced by Wolfsonian-Florida International University, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The CWM has developed a distinctly Canadian component that features numerous ephemera and artifacts from its own collections. Presented Nov. 3, 2005, to April 30, 2006.

Clash of Empires expands upon the themes explored in the Seven Years’ War section of the Canadian War Museum’s permanent exhibition. Featuring more than 220 artifacts from 74 different collections and institutions, Clash of Empires explores the international context of this conflict, and how it helped shape today’s world. Collections from Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada have all contributed items to the exhibition, including clothing, weaponry, decorative arts, painting and documents, profiling the conflict as it was experienced among the First Peoples, the British and the French. Presented in association with the John Heinz Museum in Pittsburgh, Pa., and the Smithsonian Institution, it runs from May 18, 2006, to Nov. 12, 2006.

Spotlight On Collections And Conservation

A key architectural feature of the new facility is a series of windows opening onto the collections storage and conservation area. As visitors walk the corridor to the LeBreton Gallery they can peer into the labs where museum conservators prepare artifacts for display, stabilize fragile fabrics, clean metals and much more. One of the most important concerns in the efforts to build a new facility for the museum was the need to preserve Canada’s precious military heritage by ensuring that everything from medals to tanks was adequately cared for.

The facility includes dedicated climate-controlled vaults for the most fragile items, including works of art, photographs, films and fabrics. Laboratory facilities are state-of-the-art, enabling the museum’s conservators to carry out onsite repairs, cleaning and preservation of most of the items in the museum’s collection of more than 500,000 artifacts.

Spotlight On The Military History Research Centre

The museum’s Military History Research Centre includes both the Hartland Molson Library Collection and the George Metcalf Archival Collection. The Library Collection is the museum’s reference collection, with a wide variety of printed material ranging from regimental histories and books on Canada’s military history, to wartime pamphlets and military technical manuals. It also includes a collection of rare books.

The George Metcalf Archival Collection includes journals, logbooks, blueprints, scrapbooks, aural history tapes, films, original photographs and negatives, glass slides, daguerreotypes, hand-tinted portraits, films and video. Maps and three-dimensional maps are also part of the archive.

For casual visitors and scholars alike there is a reading area alongside a bank of windows overlooking the Ottawa River. For rare books and other restricted materials, a special room has been created for the handling and consultation of these priceless works.

The Military History Research Centre offers a wide range of services to researchers and the general public. Research centre staff can provide general assistance in finding resources and using the collections, and can also help researchers with more in-depth requirements. An onsite photocopier can be used—for a small fee—to copy material from the general collections. For rare or restricted materials, research centre staff provide copying services within a few days. Arrangements can also be made for the copying of audio tapes, photographs, films and other audiovisual material.

Spotlight On Education And Public Programs

Education and public programming have long been a priority of the CWM. Special programming adds to the museum-going experience for visitors, and brings Canada’s military heritage to life in an unforgettable way. From lectures and film series to guided tours and interactive school programs, the museum has expanded its ability to offer something for just about anyone.

Education has been a primary consideration in program planning. Students can experience Canada’s military history as never before; they climb inside a trench, land on the beaches of Normandy and learn what life was like for generations of ordinary Canadians living through extraordinary times. New state-of-the-art educational facilities, the 236-seat Barney Danson Theatre, exhibitions and programming are designed to make Canada’s military history memorable for students of all ages. Led by skilled educators, the museum’s innovative new educational programs offer highly interactive encounters with the events and people that have shaped this country.

For years, the CWM’s educational programs have been providing students with a more personal sense of what it was like to be a soldier, airman, sailor or nursing sister in the Canadian military. Students have engaged in role-playing exercises, tried on uniforms and equipment, and ranged the museum’s exhibits looking for the answers to quizzes and scavenger hunts. The CWM programs have always been curriculum-linked, enabling teachers to give their students a firsthand sense of the human dimension behind the conflicts.

Over the past few years, the museum’s educational staff have also been studying programs from other museums in order to refine CWM programs. In addition to building upon its existing educational programs, which were largely geared towards history curricula in the middle grades, the CWM is adding programs that examine the human side of war in a whole new way. Programs are being developed to address the non-history curricula, such as language, the arts and geography. These programs could involve everything from presenting the role of Canadian war artists to teaching students how to read a topographical map.

For more senior students, museum staff have found that gatherings such as youth symposia are popular ways to learn. Planning is underway to develop one or two symposia of this sort per year, at which students selected from schools across the region will be invited to participate in discussions and workshops on such current issues as the war in Iraq.

Nor have younger students been forgotten. Programs are being developed to help students in primary school with Remembrance Day activities. And other programs are being developed to teach our youngest visitors about Canada’s military history through the use of the five senses, shapes and symbols, using art and artifacts from the CWM collections.

The emphasis in the CWM’s educational programs has always been on giving students a personalized sense of what conflict really means. They should come away from one of the museum’s educational programs feeling that war has indeed affected people like themselves—people who may be only a couple of years older than they are now. Whether they are learning the story behind the Victoria Cross or feeling the weight of a metal helmet on their heads and a fully loaded backpack on their shoulders, students who take part in one of the CWM’s educational programs learn to look at human conflict in a whole new way.

Spotlight On Public Programs

Public programming has always been popular at the CWM, and the facility will bring back perennial favourites, while adding a few new programs.

The state-of-the-art Barney Danson Theatre will be the site for many of the museum’s special programs. The popular Hollywood Goes To War film series will return, as will an improved speakers series featuring thought-provoking topics and exciting lecturers from around the world.

In the permanent exhibition space, visitors will also have the opportunity to meet Witnesses to History, and find out what it was really like to participate in events from WW II, the Korean War and more recent peacetime operations. A series of guided tours has been developed, providing visitors with an in-depth look at everything from the museum’s architecture to early warfare in Canada to world wars and peacetime operations. Self-guided activity packages are also available for visitors who prefer to explore at their own pace.

Symposia, book launches and live entertainment programming are also being developed, raising the museum’s profile as an important presentation and performance venue in the National Capital Region.

Through its commemorative programs, the museum seeks not only to honour those who have sacrificed so much for this country, but also to raise awareness of these sacrifices, and of the central role conflict plays in forming a country’s character. Throughout the year, the museum hosts events marking important dates in Canadian history. Its Remembrance Day activities will remain one of the most significant ways in which to honour Canadian war veterans and their families. Visitors of all ages will continue to enjoy opportunities to chat with soldiers, sailors, airmen, nursing sisters and many others.

Spotlight On Facilities

The museum is visually striking, both inside and out, and has many dazzling new spaces that can be rented for special events. The museum’s facilities, which can accommodate anything from a small business meeting to a large banquet, can be rented by groups or individuals.

The LeBreton Gallery is an expansive space housing the museum’s largest artifacts. Bathed in natural light during the day, it offers a stunning view of the Ottawa skyline at night. This impressive open storage gallery provides visitors with a close-up look at large artifacts such as a Voodoo fighter jet, 19th-century artillery pieces, tanks and other vehicles drawn from one of the most extensive collections of its kind in the world. Best for banquets, receptions, trade shows, official ceremonies and presentations, the LeBreton Gallery seats up to 600 in a banquet setting or accommodates 1,000 standing. A loading dock is located nearby, and sound, lighting and technical assistance are readily available.

The museum’s lobby is an impressive open area that can be rented alone or in conjunction with other facilities. Most appropriate for receptions or trade shows, the lobby can accommodate 800 standing guests and can be set up for seated receptions of various kinds. Sound, lighting and technical assistance are all available.

The Barney Danson Theatre is a state-of-the-art facility with raked seating that can be folded away to accommodate banquets or other receptions. It includes a VIP lounge adjacent to one of the theatre entrances. Best for conferences, galas, live performances, lectures and films, the theatre seats 236 in a theatrical seating arrangement or up to 300 for a banquet-style reception. Complete sound, lighting and projection facilities are available, as is full technical info upon request. In addition, the museum’s box office can assist in the sale of tickets for live performances.

Volunteering At The Canadian War Museum

Volunteers have long been the backbone of many programs at the CWM. From fundraising to interpretive support, volunteers provide many essential services.

One of the ways to volunteer at the museum is to share your personal experiences and expertise with visitors. There is no better way for visitors to get a firsthand impression of what conflict is really like than from someone who was actually there. In the exhibitions, on guided tours and during special activities such as Remembrance Day programming, visitors of all ages have been moved by descriptions of what it’s like to be on a battlefield, what it’s like to nurse the wounded and dying and what it’s like to wait for letters from a loved one stationed on the other side of the world.

For those with an interest in sharing their experiences directly with visitors, there are a number of ideal opportunities. As Witnesses to History, volunteers share their knowledge as topic specialists in the permanent galleries, offer demonstrations and provide in-depth information on specific aspects of the permanent exhibition. As tour guide partners, volunteers assist hosting staff on regular guided tours, adding to the visitors’ understanding of social, political and historical events, while also providing in-depth technical and artifact-related information for school tours and other special groups. As special guests, volunteers become a featured part of educational and other special programs, based on specific requests from teachers or group leaders. And in the museum’s special exhibitions, volunteers act as expert interpreters on the themes and content of exhibitions.

For those who prefer to work behind the scenes, there are many other ways in which to support the museum. These volunteers work in the Military History Research Centre, undertake research, provide administrative support to museum staff, carry out restoration work on artifacts such as heavy equipment, raise funds and provide any other volunteer support the museum may request.

Travelling To The New Canadian War Museum

The museum is located in the heart of Canada’s capital, just a short distance from Parliament Hill and the downtown core. The National Capital Region itself is a busy international travel hub, serviced by an expanded international airport, two small regional airports, a train station, bus station and two major highway systems. There are daily flights to and from most major North American destinations as well as reliable train and bus service.

To make it as easy as possible for visitors to get to the museum this summer, a number of travel providers are offering special prices and all-in-one packages. Alio Tours has partnered with the museum to provide the most comprehensive package, which includes travel by Via Rail Canada, hotel accommodation and admission to the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. This special summer package will be available until Sept. 5, 2005. For more information on this attractive travel deal or to make a reservation, please contact Alio Tours directly, toll-free, at 1-866-333-6016 or online at www.alio.ca/ promos/cwm_e.php.

In addition to the CWM, the National Capital Region features Parliament Hill, seven other national museums, the Rideau Canal, the National Arts Centre and outdoor activities ranging from hiking to boat tours. The National Capital Region is considered one of the most beautiful capitals in the world, and is within an easy drive of some of the prettiest villages and small towns in the country. It also offers activities for visitors of all ages—from the excitement of a wide range of international music festivals, including BluesFest and the Chamber Music Festival, to a variety of kids’ activities to great shopping and fine dining.

For more information on the area’s many attractions and activities, please visit the National Capital Commission Web site at www.ncc-ccn.ca or call them at 613-239-5000 or toll-free at 1-800-465-1867. The National Capital Region is also represented by two tourism agencies: the Ottawa Travel and Convention Authority, online at www.ottawatourism.ca, covers the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, and Outaouais Tourism, online at www.tourisme-outaouais.org, features the Quebec side.

Inside Memorial Hall

Nearly every architectural feature of the new Canadian War Museum suggests regeneration and remembrance, and the Memorial Hall, located in the lobby of the museum, is a space that perhaps most evokes these concepts.

The hall is immediately visible to visitors using the south entrance, while those entering from the north at first catch only a fleeting glimpse of it. Once positioned in full view of it, however, the visitor is immediately aware that the Memorial Hall is a discrete space within the museum’s lobby. First of all, the hall shares no walls with the rest of the building. Secondly, the material from which it is constructed has been treated in a manner unlike that of any other space in the museum.

Like the lobby in which it sits, the Memorial Hall is made of concrete, but that is where all similarities end. On one side, the lobby’s concrete walls have the texture and patterning of rough-hewn wooden planks, an effect achieved by the application of planks to the wet concrete, and on the other side they have been patterned to resemble large blocks of quarried stone. In contrast, the concrete walls of the Memorial Hall are smooth except for the grid pattern with which they are incised. A subtle and moving form of remembrance, the grid pattern has been proportioned after World War I Canadian gravestones.

Although a concrete structure, the Memorial Hall has an ethereal quality that harmonizes with its surroundings. This effect is the product of architect Raymond Moriyama’s law of architecture which always incorporates three elements: Light, air and water. Illuminated by a skylight, the concrete of the Memorial Hall shimmers in the glow of natural light, even on the most overcast day. Soaring beyond the confines of the surrounding roofline, the hall seems to take flight, liberated into the outside air. Resting on its south side on a glass-enclosed pool of rippling water, the hall seems to float in space. This special blend of light, air and water generates an extraordinary and unexpected feeling of weightlessness.

Visually stunning from the exterior, the interior of the hall presents wonders of its own. To gain entry, visitors must first walk up a gently sloping floor to what initially appears to be a narrow opening. The illusion of narrowness is heightened by the angled right-hand wall, which creates a triangular-shaped corridor. Considerably darker than the lobby area surrounding the hall, this corridor is lit only by small fixtures embedded in its floor and by a light mounted in the ceiling which washes over an oxidized copper-clad wall at the corridor’s end.

The entrance to the hall is immediately evident after a sharp turn to the left. Viewed from the doorway, the long bench in the chamber encourages entry. Standing before this bench, visitors will see the reflecting pool, which during the day is illuminated by natural light and at night by the gentle glow of lights at the pool’s base. While sitting on the bench, visitors will notice the headstone of the Unknown Soldier embedded in the wall in front of them. This headstone and the silence of the space, insulated as it is from the hubbub of the lobby beyond, invites quiet contemplation and reflection. The lighting in the chamber heightens the visitor experience. It is provided by fixtures in the ceiling, a skylight in the north wall and a narrow window in the south wall.

This stark space provides a quiet environment where visitors can reflect on Canada’s military history and its role in defining both who we are as a nation and our place on the world stage. The hall also invites the visitor to contemplate the millions of Canadians who have served their country in numerous conflicts and other operations, and to remember those ordinary Canadians who have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of peace and democracy. The Unknown Soldier, who was laid to rest in a tomb in front of the National War Memorial on May 28, 2000, is seen to represent our past, our present and our future, as well as the courage of all Canadians.

Once a year, on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, the narrow south-facing window has an even more important role to play in a special solar event. After meticulous calculations to determine the location and angle of the sun on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m., the window has been aligned so that the sun’s light will frame the headstone of the Unknown Soldier. This event promises to be both spectacular and moving. But this is not the Memorial Hall’s only symbolic alignment. It has also been positioned on a second axis that aligns with the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. This creates yet another connection to remembrance.

From the design of its exterior to the special significance of its alignment, the Memorial Hall projects an aura of mystery. It is a completely unique structure, the impact of which can be appreciated only by seeing it. Each visitor will experience it in their own way. And each visitor will find within its walls the opportunity to enjoy a period of quiet reflection and remembrance.

The Royal Canadian Legion Hall Of Honour

by Dr. Laura Brandon

The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour in the new Canadian War Museum explores Canada’s long history of honouring. Visitors discover how Canadians have remembered and commemorated their military past. They learn that across this country and through the centuries the people of Canada have honoured those who have served in war and peace.

Generously supported by a $600,000 donation from The Royal Canadian Legion, the 200-square-metre hall of honour is located in the permanent exhibit space. Special lighting, sound, and unique design elements in the hall work together with the stories and artifacts to create a distinctive, respectful and meaningful visitor experience. The focus is on stories of Canadian courage and authentic acts of remembrance.

Visitors entering The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour will find themselves in a spacious oval gallery that is slightly larger at one end. In the centre they will see the original plaster model for the National War Memorial in Ottawa. All around them is a single floor-to-ceiling glass case containing medals, photographs, paintings, souvenirs, certificates of service, rolls of honour, paintings, memorials, scrapbooks, letters, poems and models.

This material is at the heart of the poignant personal stories of Canadians who lived and died in the service of their country. Each section of the exhibition is highlighted by a different quotation. In the World War I section, an excerpt from a letter written by the fiancé of a nurse killed in a bombing raid reads: “She was a brave girl and so devoted in the cause of justice and relief to the suffering, that she has made the supreme sacrifice.”

The stories are told chronologically. Visitors first learn about the burial of a Tsimshian warrior on the West Coast and about the significance of the Eagle Dance for Canada’s First Peoples. They discover how the Vikings commemorated their heroes. In the display on New France, visitors explore how Wolfe and Montcalm have been commemorated in their own time and in the present day, including their first official memorial and the official burial of Montcalm in 2001.

An exhibit on the War of 1812 shows that General Sir Issac Brock is honoured not only in a memorial, a commemorative stamp and a commemorative book, but also in a university (Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.) and in a city (Brockville, Ont.). This section of the gallery concludes with the Northwest Rebellion. Here, visitors learn about an unusual form of commemoration, the Louis Riel Scholarships available to students at Brandon University.

The largest section in the hall of honour looks at honouring in the 20th century. For instance, visitors find out about the 11 Canadians killed during the South African War who for many years went unrecorded in the Books of Remembrance in the Peace Tower in Ottawa. In all, more than 7,000 Canadians served in the war. Of them, 277 died and 252 were wounded. A quilt, meanwhile, is among the exhibits honouring those who served and died in World War I. During the years 1914-1918, Canada contributed nearly 620,000 officers, men and women from all walks of life. Of them, more than 66,000 never returned and nearly 173,000 were wounded. Visitors can also learn about Canadian WW I airman Alan McLeod, the Victoria Cross recipient who died at the age of 19 and is commemorated on a street sign in his hometown of Stonewall, Man. They will also see one of the first poppies ever issued on Nov. 11 and, using a database, will learn about the history of the Silver Cross awarded to the mothers and widows of dead service personnel.

Tales of courage, bravado and generosity of spirit take us from WW II, which claimed the lives of more than 45,000 Canadians, to the present conflict in Afghanistan. This is accomplished with the help of newspaper, radio and television coverage. The degree to which the media has become the principle commemorative resource in Canada is conveyed through the crackling sound broadcasts and newspaper articles of the past and in the compelling and moving television imagery of today. Included in this final section is a personal commemorative Internet site dedicated to Master Corporal Mark Isfeld who died in 1994 while clearing landmines in Croatia.

Visitors also learn how the graves of those who died during the Cold War are being restored as acts of remembrance. At the end of the exhibition, visitors are invited to leave their own messages, and in the months and years to come these messages will be incorporated into the wordscapes above the exhibits to show that remembrance is not only historical, but a part of who Canadians are today.

Moving chronologically through time, The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour shows visitors how traditional honouring of the fallen has changed and developed over time. Burial has remained a constant. Memorials became significant at the beginning of the 19th century, as did medals. The naming of every Canadian who died in war is a 20th century phenomenon. By showing how varied the Canadian forms of honouring are, the museum hopes visitors will leave the gallery with a greater awareness of the historical complexity and richness of remembrance and commemoration in Canada.

Honouring is and always has been all around us. We only have to look.

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