Posted by: mindyourknitting | May 23, 2010

Dinosaur Bones

The week before last Erik and I had the luck to be invited to the “Grand Re-Opening Preview” for the renovated Canadian Museum of Nature  here in Ottawa.   The museum is housed in the beautiful Victoria Memorial Museum building.  This century-old building has been undergoing extensive renovations for several years, and it dragged on so long that when we lived a few blocks away from the museum it began to seem like the large crane in its parking lot was a permanent fixture that never actually did anything.  But just when it seemed like the museum had been and would be under repair forever, Erik received the invite to the preview, which was held in anticipation of the Grand Re-Opening taking  place this weekend with much fanfare.  It was great for us to get out of the house together on a weeknight, and the cocktail hour in the pretty building was all fancy.  There was the usual mingling of self-important people, giving of speeches, and acknowledging of beneficiaries.  Am I the only one who thought some guilty CEO consciences were being eased when it was announced that three of the main benefactors of the museum’s facelift were a mining company, a bank, and an oil company that sponsored  – wait for it – the “Blue Water” Gallery.   My eyebrows almost hit my hairline on that one, but I guess the money has to come from somewhere, and it was amusing to watch the RBC guy struggle to find a connection between his financial institution and the museum: “I’m made of water, you’re made of water.  Without water there’s no economy.”  Whoa, dude, now that you put it that way…

 From the parts we saw, the building is beautiful.  The museum was given a significant addition on the outside – the “Lantern” glass tower that sits above the original entrance.  I’m kind of ambivalent about its appearance from the outside, but from the inside it provides a great deal of light to a building that I remember from innumerable school field trips as cramped and dark, and the view over downtown Ottawa is fantastic.  There’s an open staircase that allows visitors to walk from floor to floor looking out through the lantern, and on the second floor there’s one of those freaky clear walkways looking down to the first floor.  I hate those.  In the main entrance to the building, the original mosaic tile floor has been restored (welcome back, moose nuts!) as well as the staircases, etc., and the main entrance is really stunning.  

 But the show-stealers were the galleries.  Although not all of them were open (I was disappointed that the galleries featuring live critters weren’t open, I was excited about the creepy crawlies – I’m okay as long as they are thoroughly trapped) we were able to walk through the Fossil Gallery.  Hellooooo Dinosaurs!  Honestly, it’s still the best  and coolest part of the whole museum, that hasn’t changed from when I was a kid.  

I don't think you understand the scale of this dinosaur poop. It is really big.

 We also saw the Mammal Gallery, the Bird Gallery, and the Blue Water Gallery which was a bit disappointing considering the hype, with the exception of Tallulah, the blue whale skeleton that’s suspended from the ceiling.  That thing is HUGE.  Erik went through the Earth Gallery while I visited the ladies’ – I was happy enough to skip looking at a bunch of rocks but he said it was okay.  It’s possible that some of the underwhelming galleries (Bird Gallery, I’m looking at you, *snore* – although the little play bird hospital was kind of adorable with its little lab coats, bird x-rays, and scary big plastic syringes) were not completed and may have more bells and whistles now that the whole museum is open to the public, since it was clear that they were going to be putting on finishing touches until the last minute.

Overall, I think the museum has struck exactly the right balance – if the speeches by museum mucky-mucks were to be believed, there is a renewed emphasis on natural history and natural sciences research and scholarship, and from what we saw the museum itself is the perfect blend of facts and information to engage adults, interactive stuff for kids, and visually interesting displays for everyone.  I kept thinking that although Abigail is a bit young for it now, in a few years this place will blow her mind.    

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