Monday, 19 January 2015

VIP ACCESS TO CANADA'S CAPITAL MUSEUMS

MUSEUM MONDAY

BY: CADY MOYER

Photo taken by author, January 17th, 2015.
View from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.
You can see the Canadian Museum of History to the left, and the National Gallery to the right.

Welcome to another Museum Monday! My name is Cady Moyer, and this is my most exciting post yet.

This past week, students and professors from the iSchool, mostly from the Museum Studies program, embarked on a whirlwind tour of Ottawa. Leaving Toronto in the afternoon on Wednesday, January 14th, and returning late in the evening on Saturday, January 17th, we went behind the scenes at museums big and small, visited national heritage sites, dined with program alumni, explored the tasty offerings of the Byward Market, and froze on the seasonally frigid streets of Ottawa.

In just two full days and two half days, we collectively managed to see:

the National Gallery of Canada, 
the Canadian Museum of History, 
the Canadian War Museum, 
The Museum of Nature, 
Parliament Hill, 
the Bytown Museum, 
and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. 
Through both special programs set up for us by museum staff, and through our own adventures, we got an in depth look at what it takes to be a museum in Canada’s capital.

The trip’s main events were the special programming put on for us at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) on Thursday, and the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) on Friday.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 15TH
Megan Richardson, Chief of Education and Public Programs at the NGC, and alumnus of our program, met us at 9am for a full day of talks and tours of the gallery. The day’s presentations included the museum’s innovations in programming and design, as well as function with social media, and making the most of statistics to guide a museum through the year. At lunch there was a guest speaker, fine art photographer Edward Burtynsky, sharing both the ideas and stories behind his work as an artist, and the photographs themselves. Our scheduled time wrapped up with a tour of the Biennial Exhibit, showcasing Contemporary Canadian artists’ works. Our tour guide did an excellent job of showcasing the qualities of a modern interpreter by being inclusive and sharing authority to create an engaging experience through participation. The rest of the day students to themselves to tour the rest of the museum, or retire to the hotel to rest for an alumni reception later in the evening.

Photo taken by Author, January 15th, 2015.
Heading to the alumni reception.
Photo taken by author, January 15th, 2015.
MMSt students checking out the
Biennial exhibition at the NGC.
Photo taken by author, January 15th, 2015.
Edward Burtynsky at the NGC.


FRIDAY, JANUARY 16TH
On Friday, we all bundled up against the bright chilly morning and crossed over into Quebec to visit the newly renamed Canadian Museum of History (previously the Canadian Museum of Civilization). We heard all about the new Canada Hall redesign that is opening in 2017 from both a collections, and project management standpoint. We also got to know a little bit more about the restructuring of the museum from the Director General, Jean-Marc Blais. There was time to explore the museum at lunch and for forty-five minutes after presentations. At the end of presentations, some students ran off to make the most of the afternoon with a special behind-the-scenes exhibit tour at the Canadian War Museum. I was drawn to CMH’s temporary exhibits—1867 Rebellion and Confederation; Canada’s Titanic—The Empress of Ireland; and Ni’N Na L’Nu—The Mi’Kmaq of Prince Edward Island—as well as a quick walk through the Children’s Museum which made me yearn to be five years old again.


Photo taken by author, January 16th, 2015.
Early morning to the CMH.
Photo taken by author, January 16th, 2015.
New name, same beautiful building at the CMH.
Photo taken by author January 16th, 2015.
MMSt students hearing about dining
etiquette from a volunteer in the
Empress of Ireland exhibition at the CMH



SATURDAY, JANUARY 17TH
After the rigour of the previous two days, Saturday morning each person got to set their own pace at a museum, or museums, of their choosing. Some went to the Canadian War Museum, others to the Museum of Nature or the Aviation Museum. Myself and a small group of students headed off to the Bytown Museum, followed by a guided tour of the Parliament buildings. We had the privilege of a VIP tour with the Executive Director, and MMSt alumnus, Robin Etherington.

The museum was closed to visitors that day which gave our group the unique experience of having a tour that was concurrently about the museum’s content and its management. Robin gave us her undivided attention, establishing a professional dialogue with us and answering all of our very detailed questions. Of great interest to me, was the Bytown Museum’s community exhibition space, where cultural groups within Ottawa can apply to mount a temporary exhibition. I find this such a fantastic idea because it engages the museum directly with its community, it broadens its audiences bringing in new people to the museum, it makes the most of the small museum’s resources, and it breaks up potential museum hegemony by bringing in other perspectives.

Photo taken by author, January 17th, 2015.
Executive Director of the Bytown Museum,
Robin Etherington talking about the
community exhibition space.
Photo taken by author, January 17th, 2015.
MMSt students exploring the Bytown Museum.


Photo taken by author, January 17th, 2015.
MMSt students exploring the Peace Tower.















Photo taken by author, January 17th, 2015.
Inside the library on Parliament Hill. 


As a museum studies student, the greatest value of the trip were times like these, when I saw, heard, or experienced a museum output that was a really great idea, one to be remembered. While “beg, borrow, and steal” is a saying that is often heard from museum professionals, as students, we have the opportunity to meditate upon these ideas and distill them into an essence of what works, what doesn’t, and why; and that can prepare us to innovate in our own careers.

Each of the nearly fifty attendees experienced their own trip highlights. My favourite moment was watching the trip’s organizer, MMSt candidate Alex Somerville, receive a thank-you gift from the group—it was a book about Marshall McLuhan written by Alex’s undergraduate degree supervisor. Alex shot out of his bus seat in excitement, with a look on his face akin to Jennifer Lawrence winning an Oscar, and with the same amount of charm. I wish I had caught it on camera. 

Photo taken by author, January 17th, 2015.
MMSt students waiting to get picked up
by the bus to head back to Toronto.
Photo taken by author, January 17th, 2015.
The bus trip home to Toronto.
Museum Studies goes to Ottawa was jam packed and full of fun, but why take just my word for it? Hear it from those who went on the trip! During the bus ride back Jaime Clifton-Ross, Musings Editor, and I went around and interviewed a few people about their favourite or most memorable moments. Keep in mind that while filming it was dark, my camera was my phone in my hand, and The Princess Bride was playing on the bus T.V. sets (the scene where Buttercup is almost eaten by eels makes a dramatic appearance on a few of these clips), but all the same, the enthusiastic and excited spirit of the trip is easy enough to see. 


That enthusiasm and enjoyment pervaded not only our experiences on the trip, but also beamed from museum professionals we met with in Ottawa. One professional cautioned us during her presentation, that if you’re not having fun, if you’re work is constantly making you want to tear your hair out, then make a change, find a new way, make it enjoyable again. 

Happy Monday everyone, have a great week, and innovate your way to a better day.

2 comments:

  1. Can I add that one of my favorite moments was watching the video you made on the bus back to Toronto? Thank you all for making this trip fantastic! And for the dedicated Musings team for recording this priceless video!

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  2. We're so glad you enjoyed the video! We had a lot of fun making it. I love that The Princess Bride is playing in the background! :)

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