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Canada's Museums of Nature & History

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to spend some time in Ottawa due to work. Following a hectic week I eventually managed to visit a couple of museums, beginning with the stunning Museum of Nature.

It's official name is the Victoria Memorial Museum Building, designed by David Ewart in a mock Tudor/Gothic/Beaux Arts style. It has flora and fauna represented in stone entwined all around and about the structure. However, begun initially to serve the Geological Survey of Canada, the impressive and humorous building dates only from 1913 despite it's historic appearance.

The grand aqua-coloured glass tower is a recent addition to replace the stone original which was leaning so much that it was threatening the overall stability of the building.

Outside there is an equally impressive trio of Mammoths, alongside a mini recreation of the Mammoth Steppe.

Inside, the floor is a mosiac with a greeting Moose to match the carved Moose heads which adorn either side of the entrance doors.

The visitor is immediately wowed by an incredible display of dinosaurs and the skeletons (some real) of other extinct and mythic sounding creatures, form today's whale to a giant turtle worthy of Terry Pratchett and a giant serpent reminscent of Harry Potter - there are no imaginings required here, the astonishing wonder of the factual world is quite mind blowing enough.

Walking around the displays I encountered an inevitable cousin of King of the Sea Trees, alongside a beautifully devised exhibition on water and the power of climate change (which, incidentally, was the gallery most filled with engrossed children).

Ostensibly leaving nature behind, a long walk across the city later and the weather was closing in. Water was rising rapidly around Parliament Hill and the bridge to Quebec was almost deserted.

Eventually, feeling frozen to the core (in May!), the astonishing Museum of History loomed out of grey cloud. Silent and windswept, only a lone maple flag moved in the cold. It rapidly became apparent that the museum was unexpectedly closed due to staff movement being minimised during the humanitarian efforts to assist people subject to the sudden horrific flooding elsewhere in the city.

At which point, it began to snow.

Beating a hasty retreat back to the relative safety of high ground, it was impossible to grasp that this was almost summer. The homeless huddled, tulips closed and a bleak beauty overcame the empty spaces. There is no curator quite like a cloud.


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