Friday, May 13, 2005

Inside the New War Museum

You'll remember that earlier this week I went to the official opening ceremonies of the new Canadian War Museum. I elected not to go inside because it was so crowded, but this Thursday was a different story.

Nice thing about Thursdays: the Museum is open late (until 9 pm), and it's free admission. So as a break for those of you tired of Parliament, let me give you a bit of a tour.

This is the main reception area of the new Museum. If you've been to the old one, you'll remember that it was about the size of a hallway closet, manned by a commissionaire, so this is a welcome change.

Not quite the Red Ensign, this version flew at Vimy Ridge. It's in the hallway between the reception area and the Exhibition Hall, called the Thomas Fuller Passage.

I never thought I'd see an example of a First Nations suit of armor before. This is an early part of the first section of the Exhibition Hall, featuring artifacts prior to 1885.

I should explain that the Exhibition Hall is arranged in 4 main sections, accessible by a central hub. The old museum had the exhibits dispersed on 3 floors of what used to be a medium-sized house; its major equipment stored in a warehouse located elsewhere. This is a remarkable major change.

Now, this kind of display would be typical of what you'd expect from a military museum ...

... but not this. The Museum follows the display philosophy of its parent, the Canadian Museum of Civilization; it "hollywoods" the exhibition space in order to convey its information better. This is an example of how the Museum explains WW1 trench warfare; it's a walk-in set.

This is a Neuport ... I think. We're still in the WW1 section, this part explaining the beginnings of air warfare.

The entrance to another walk-in set, this one explaining the horrors of Passchendale. For some reason I kept thinking about The Two Towers ...

Well, it wouldn't be the War Museum without the Hitler Limo. This marks the entrance to the largest section of Exhibition Hall, the one dealing with World War II.

Early version of a flight simulator. Cute, isn't it?

Interactive display set, supposed to represent the flying bridge of a corvette during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Another walkthrough set, this one representing the room-to-room fighting that went on during the Italian campaign.

This display set is supposed to represent a landing craft during the early hours of D-Day.

We're still in the War Museum. This kitchen is part of the entrance to the section dealing with the postwar period.

Equipment from the Army and Air Force are well-represented in this section. I guess the Museum still isn't big enough to house a ship -- although they could probably fit a Sea King in here ... :)

Ah. These are the infamous paintings that the war veterans raised so much of a fuss about. It's just one wall of that part of the section dealing with Canada's peacekeeping role.

Personally, I don't find it all that disrespectful. After all, this museum exhibits the artifacts of war, and in war good people often do bad things. It's a useful reminder to Canadians of that fact.

One area I can't show (pictures turned out a bit blurry, sorry) is the Royal Canadian Legion's Hall of Honour. This particular room documents all the various war memorials honouring Canadian soldiers, inside and outside the country. Its centrepiece is a miniature planning version of the National War Memorial here in Ottawa.

This is Regeneration Hall. The height of this area combined with the statuary and the lighting render it quiet and respectful.

And this final picture is one angle of the Lebreton Gallery, although I think "gallery" might be a bit misleading. This is where the War Museum houses most of its vehicle collection. (That mini-tank on the left is real, though I can't imagine who'd want to drive it.)

All in all, this is a worthwhile tour, and a quantum-level improvement over the old War Museum. If you can spare the time to come to Ottawa, you should check this out.