8 November 2019

MY WEEK IN OTTAWA: A LETTER FROM NATALIE HEATON, VICE PRESIDENT

Weekend Edition | Natalie Heaton


Dear Musers:

Monday, November 4, 2019, thirty-three students from the Faculty of Information departed on a journey to the nation’s capital--Ottawa. After a 6 hour bus ride, we arrived and were ready to see what they city had to offer. Our group will visit 5 museums in 4 days and meet over twenty-five different museum professionals.

Tuesday morning, the adventure began at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC). After taking a group photo under the infamous “Mama” sculpture, we enter the gallery and were welcomed by Gary Goodacre, the chief of Education and Public Programs. Gary spoke about keeping the visitors experience at the centre of everything that Gallery does and making the overall experience of the museum less transactional. The way the NGC aims to do this is by implementing art and an Indigenous library before guests purchase their ticket. Dr. Sasha Suda the Director and CEO of the NGC, spoke to the group next, her ‘why not’ attitude was very inspiring as she talked about her career in museums. Her most notable piece of advice being to tell great stories that are relevant to what is going on and be inclusive. The rest of our time at the NGC was spent going on tours with either David Gillanders (educator) or Jaime Morse (educator, Indigenous outreach & programming). I went on Jamie’s tour and she discussed white privilege engrained within the museum system. She stressed the need to remember the colonial history of Canada and treatment of Indigenous people within these institutions.

National Gallery of Canada. Photo Courtesy of Natalie Heaton. 

Tuesday afternoon was spent at the Canadian War Museum. We met Britt Braaten (creative development specialist), who talked about what inclusion looks like at the War Museum along with some of the drawbacks of working with the museum’s collection. Britt discussed the need to diversify the voice that is heard in exhibitions. Sandra O’Quinn (Learning Specialist) showed us Supply Line Discovery Boxes, boxes that are designed to be circulated to schools in remote locations. Essentially bringing the museum to the students, oppose to bringing the students to the museum. 

Canadian War Museum. Photo courtesy of Natalie Heaton.
The Canadian Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) was our first stop on Wednesday morning. At this stop we met ten museum professionals. In particular, we discussed the relationship between sponsorships and the museum. Raising questions of how an institution works with a donor such as oil companies, when the exhibition is intended to tell both the positives and negatives “facts” of oil production. The main take away from this discussion was it matters to show and talk about both side of the story in a museum context.
Canadian Science and Technology Museum. Photo Courtesy of Natalie Heaton. 


Canadian Science and Technology Museum. Photo Courtesy of Natalie Heaton. 

We had the opportunity at both the CSTM and the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) to visit collection storage. The CSTM have just finished building their new storage space which houses a range of artifacts from steam trains, buses and cars, to smaller objects such as cameras. At the CMH we walked through their collection storage and conservation section and saw variety of objects such as kayaks, canoes, and furniture. Going through both of these collections spaces was a highlight for me because we had the opportunity to see the treasures that the public does not often get to see. 

Canadian Museum of History. Photo courtesy of Natalie Heaton.
 

The last museum that we stopped at was the Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, where we received a very informative tour of the bunker’s history. The 100,000sq foot, four level, underground bunker, was very impressive. While the Deifinbunker is not a national museum, their innovative programming and partnerships have helped to establish themselves as a destination. 


Diefenbunker Museum. Photo Courtesy of Natalie Heaton.
Overall, my week in Ottawa was lovely. I got to visit some amazing museums, meet amazing people, and strengthen my friendships with my classmates.

Thanks for reading,
Natalie Heaton

Ottawa Sign in ByWord Market. Photo Courtesy of Jaime Meier. 


P.S. We didn't lose anyone! 

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