Wednesday, 2 July 2014

EXHIBITION REVIEW: Bee Exhibit at the Museum of Food and Agriculture


So, since this post is about exhibition reviews – I thought I might actually review an exhibit this week. Shocking, I know. Last month, I went to see what would end up being one of my favourite exhibits. The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is located just outside of downtown Ottawa, and is geared towards children and families. There is a petting zoo, live demonstrations, lots of activities, and exhibition spaces. While I was there, one exhibition was about bees. First of all, it was called “Taking Care of Beesness.” Enough said, amiright?

The exhibit was simply laid out, in a linear fashion around the room. It was also very accessible both physically and intellectually. Again, it was obviously focused on kids as an audience (perhaps that’s why I liked it… big kid at heart?). They used the honeycomb shaped plaques (as seen in the picture below) to provide us with information, which added to the atmosphere. There was a great mix of information provided through traditional reading, touch screens, and self-discovery “hands on” activities.

The picture above shows a glimpse in to some of the information visitors are given. They cover topics like how honey is made, how people have used it for thousands of years, why the bee is important to the ecosystem, how bees are different from wasps and yellow jackets, and different kinds of bees found in a hive. It’s simply and aesthetically laid out, with options to explore further on the touch screen.

It was by no means the most complex exhibit I have ever seen, but the Agriculture and Food Museum effectively presented the information to their audience in an entertaining and informative way. The information was not overwhelming, and there was a simple path to follow. What I liked was how they used their interactive activities to reinforce the information presented. For example, after reading about the different kinds of bees in a hive, the visitor comes across a double sided plexiglass case, which has housed a live bee colony. Visitors are encouraged to identify the queen bee, the worker bees, and the drone bees.

I actually learned something on my trip to the Agriculture and Food Museum (not always the case in museums). It was clear that kids and parents alike were enjoying the exhibit. I had to wait a good 15 minutes to take the above picture because there were little faces pressed against the glass. 

Taking Care of Beesness presented what it promised: information about the lives of bees, and their impact in our world as humans. At a time when the importance of bees in the ecosystem has been somewhat prominent in the news, this exhibit was poignant, informative, and effective.  It also reminded me that sometimes simple is better.  They didn't spend thousands of dollars on fancy displays, but used alternative methods of communicating the information.

What do you think? Have you seen any exhibits which are simple, yet effective? Do you think having a live bee colony is an effective learning tool or potentially cruel to the bees?


  1. I'm so jealous you went to the Museum of Food and Ag! I follow them on twitter and they seem to have some pretty awesome programming that really gets kids involved in different aspects of agriculture - from hanging out with farm animals to learning how different farm equipment works. I wonder if adults can join in that action (mostly I just want to pet sheep)?

    What did you think of the museum overall? The bee exhibit does certainly look interesting (and that's saying a lot coming from me because I really, really don't like bugs, even important ones like bees). Does the museum have any permanent collection exhibits that you checked out?

    1. Hi Brittney,
      Great to hear you follow us on twitter! We do offer programming and activities specifically for adults like our canning demonstrations ( ). Our daily demonstrations are designed for all visitors, including adults!
      Apart from all the animals (of various types and breeds, including heritage breeds) on the working farm we do have a few exhibitions including the newly opened "Food Preservation: The Science You Eat" and an exhibition on Tractors.
      Hope to see you soon!

    2. Thank you kindly for your reply! I can't wait to come visit in person. I'm particularly interested in "The Science You Eat" exhibition, so I look very forward to seeing it.

    3. I swung by "The Science You Eat" as well, but I didn't find it quite as accessible as "Taking Care of Beesness," as it was quite text heavy (perhaps I was in the head space of a kid that day!). The coolest thing was the time lapse videos of food decomposing! Super interesting.
      And Agriculture and Food Museum - please correct me if I'm wrong, but there isn't a permanent exhibition space is there? I'm not sure how big the collection is, or where it's stored.

    4. Those food decomposition videos are lots of fun! You can watch them over and over on our YouTube channel .
      The Learning Centre, where you find "The Science You Eat" was renovated and re-opened as exhibition space in May 2013. It housed a temporary exhibition on the ingredients used to make apple cake until "The Science You Eat" opened this May. You will be able to visit "The Science You Eat" over the next 5 years. In the past there were not very many areas at the Museum that could accommodate artifacts year-round.
      The exhibition on tractors has been up for several years. The space where you can currently find "Taking Care of Beesness" does change every few years. Previously there was an exhibition on hops and before that an exhibition called "Food for Health". The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum belongs to the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation, so most of the artifacts in the collection that are not currently on display are stored in the reserve collection warehouses near the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

    5. That's great! Thanks for the info :)

  2. Thank you for posting about bees :) This is such a good example of how themes tied to agriculture, nature and food can create an engaging and educational environment. I really like your description of the interactive-ness of the exhibition! I will have to check out he museum during my next trip to Ottawa!