Located in Gatineau, Quebec, across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, the Canadian Museum of History is the biggest museum in Canada.
The venue is just 5 minutes by car from downtown Ottawa, on the west side of the Alexandra Bridge. It’s a most interesting place and home to millions of artifacts.
The Museum of History
While technically not in Ottawa, the Museum of History sits across from Canada’s Parliament Buildings, on the other side of the Ottawa River. It’s the most popular museum in Canada, attracting over 1,200,000 guests annually. It contains over 6 acres of displays, 2 large theatres and a number of online exhibits that only add to the amount of things that can be explored in the huge number of collections.
The museum’s address is 100 Laurier Street. It’s in Gatineau, just on the other side of the Alexandra Bridge from downtown Ottawa.
Tickets and Hours
The Museum of History was closed for a period in the spring of 2020, but then reopened in June of the following year.
When operating, the museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm except for on Thursdays when it’s open until 7:00 pm.
As of the summer of 2021, due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the museum is operating under a reduced capacity. Tickets must be bought online and come with a specific admission time. In the era before COVID-19 some of the permanent exhibitions were free to visit on Thursday evenings. As of May 2021, however, it’s unclear whether that will still be the case in the future.
The cost of general admission tickets as of May 2021 is as follows:
- Adults (ages 18 to 64): $20
- Seniors (ages 65+): $18
- Students (ages 13 to 17 and 18+ with ID): $15
- Youth (ages 8 to 12): $13
- Children (ages 2 to 7): $5
Infants under 2 years old are free. Admission is also free for everyone on July 1st (Canada Day) and Remembrance Day (November 11th).
Annual memberships are also available. As of May 2021 the cost is $55 for adults and $44 for seniors, students and children. Family passes (which count for up to 2 adults and 4 kids under age 17) are available for $125. Ambassador passes (which count for up to 2 adults and 4 guests of any age) are available for $250.
These memberships not only give access to the Museum of History, but also to the Canadian War Museum. The two museums are both operated by the Canadian Museum of History Crown Corporation.
Along with entry, members receive discounts on tickets for additional guests, for parking and in the Gift Shop. As well, they can access previews of new exhibitions, guided tours from various experts and other special events and activities.
Exhibitions at the Museum
From June 2nd to August 29th, 2021, the feature exhibition at the Museum of History is entitled Queens of Egypt. This exhibition focuses on the famous female pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and includes a wide range of artifacts from large statues to jewelry.
There are a number of permanent exhibitions at the museum, the biggest of which is the Canadian History Hall. Divided into three separate galleries, this hall covers the history of what is now Canada beginning with the creation stories of Indigenous communities from across the country and going all the way up to our modern-day cities.
If you’re not able to visit the museum, you can take a virtual tour of the Canadian History Hall. It’s not the same experience, but it allows you to have a look inside of the building and at the different galleries. To do so, visit the Museum of History website.
Two other big permanent exhibitions (though ones without virtual tours) are the Grand Hall and the First Peoples Hall. Both of them showcase history and works from indigenous peoples in Canada.
The Grand Hall contains the largest indoor collection of totem poles in the world and focuses on the First Nations communities on Canada’s West Coast. The First Peoples Hall covers communities from across the country both pre and post-European contact. Both exhibitions are very large, with thousands of items on display.
As if there wasn’t already a lot on display at the Museum of History, there are around 100 exhibitions that can be viewed for free online. These range from the history of health care in Canada to a collection of ornate furniture and other decorations to information about Ancient Greece.
As it’s all free and easily accessible from the comfort of your own home, you can be anywhere in the world and still be able to explore the Museum of History. And with so much to see, a lot of leisure time can be spent going through the wide variety of online exhibitions.
To explore all that is on offer online, visit the Museum of History website.
The Museum’s Theatres
The Museum of History contains two theatres. One is just known as “The Theatre” and can seat up to 500 people. With a centre stage and ringed seating all around, it can be used for all sorts of performances. The Theatre can also be rented out for private use at a cost of about $2,500.
As well, there is the CINÉ which has two different massive screens for movies. One is a huge dome and the other is 3D capable. When the museum is running at proper capacity there are screenings of various movies during operating hours (with a capacity of just under 300 people). Like The Theatre, the CINÉ can be privately rented for about $2,500 for the day, or $1,800 an hour for a film screening.
Due to COVID-19 the CINÉ had to shut down temporarily and, as of May 2021, there is not a set plan for when it will reopen. For the time being, the museum is allowing people from across the country to rent the movies and play them in their homes.
The seven available films are all between 25 and 45 minutes long. They cost less than $2 each to rent. It’s a fantastic deal and means you can watch their whole collection for less than $10! To check out the movies go to the CINÉ+ webpage.
The Story Behind the Museum
The roots of the museum go all the way back to the 19th century, when the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) opened a Geological Museum in Montreal in the mid-1850’s. In 1881 this museum was moved to Ottawa and later became part of the GSC’s Department of Mines.
In the 1920’s the museum within the Department of Mines was officially named the National Museum of Canada and it greatly expanded over the following decades. This led to a divide in 1968 when there were three separate branches within the same building: the Museum of Man, the National Museum of Natural Sciences and the National Museum of Science and Technology.
In the 1980’s the Museum of Man moved to its own building in its current location in Gatineau. This was accompanied by a re-branding from the Museum of Man to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The opening of this new museum was expensive (at over $300 million including the cost of the move, expansion and rebrand), but it became a massive and hugely popular attraction.
The museum was renamed again in 2013, changing to its current name: the Canadian Museum of History. This was part of a campaign to focus more on Canadian history and less on general world history, although there are still exhibits with non-Canadian displays.
For more information visit the Canadian Museum of History website.
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