Home to a definitive catalogue of Canada’s military history, the War Museum has millions of pieces in its collection and is a fascinating place to explore.
The National War Museum
Located at 1 Vimy Place not far from downtown Ottawa, the War Museum is operated by the Canadian Museum of History Crown Corporation which also operates the Canadian Museum of History (which is located at 100 Laurier Street in nearby Gatineau).
The building is designed to be energy-efficient. This includes a “green roof” over 10 square km in size. This roof is home to a whole ecosystem of plants that insulates the building, dilutes some amount of air pollution and helps lessen energy loss.
Right next to the museum is LeBreton Flats Park. The museum sometimes hosts various events at the park. There are multiple bike paths and busses that service the area.
Where is the Museum?
The museum’s address is 1 Vimy Place. It’s on the south side of the Ottawa River at Bronson Point not far from the Chaudiere Bridge. It’s about 2.3 km southwest of Parliament Hill.
Hours and Admission
The museum temporarily closed in April of 2021 due to increased COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario. As of May 2021 there wasn’t a set plan for reopening. (For information about the most up-to-date status of the venue see the Canadian War Museum‘s website.)
During non-pandemic times the museum is usually open from Wednesdays to Sundays. Its hours are 10:00 am to 4:00 pm with the exception of Thursdays when it’s open until 7:00 pm.
Here are the admission prices as of late May 2021:
- Adults: $17
- Seniors (65+): $15
- Students (13-17, 18+ with ID): $13
- Youth (8-12): $11
- Children (2-7): $5
Infants under 2 years are free. Also, all admission is free on Thursdays from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. You just have to book a ticket for that time period in advance. Admission is also free all day on Canada Day and Remembrance Day.
Annual memberships are also available. These give access not only to the War Museum but also to the Canadian Museum of History. Here are the membership prices as of May 2021:
- Adult: $55
- Senior, Student and Child (3-12): $44
- Family (up to 2 adults and 4 children): $125
- Ambassador (up to 2 adults and 4 guests): $250
Along with entry, members receive different discounts, access to previews of new exhibitions and other special events and activities.
To purchase tickets and memberships visit the War Museum‘s website.
Main Features of the War Museum
When you approach the building from the outside, one of the sights that stands out is along the windows near the roof. The windows make up a stretch of Morse Code that reads “Lest We Forget” in both English and French. Also remarkable about the building, it’s designed to look like a bunker.
There are four main, permanent galleries at the War Museum. They cover four different time periods: from pre-European contact up to the 20th century, World War I, World War 2, and from the Cold War up to today. There are many sections of the exhibits that are life-size and the wide range of artifacts and information are displayed in a variety of ways.
In addition to the main galleries, the War Museum usually has multiple feature exhibitions on display at any given time. One example is Forever Changed, held at the museum until September 2021. This exhibition looks at the personal stories of many Canadians (both on the battlefield and on the home front) and how World War II affected them.
Another recent example is Liberation! which is on display until January 2022. It covers Canada’s role in freeing the Netherlands from German rule in 1944 and 1945. The War Museum also sometimes develops travelling exhibitions that tour at other museums and venues.
The War Museum Online
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the War Museum’s regular operations in 2020 and 2021. In response, the museum launched the War Museum at Home program, giving people the opportunity to experience some of its collections from their computers and couches.
With many online exhibitions and museum videos to experience, the online program might not be the same as actually visiting the building. The online collections, however, are a good way to learn about Canada’s military history. Plus, it’s all free!
To explore the Museum at Home program, visit the War Museum website.
The History of the Museum
The War Museum officially opened in 1942 although parts of it stemmed directly from another museum that operated in the late 19th century. The War Museum has changed locations multiple times over the course of its existence. The first time was in 1967 when it moved from the War Trophies Building to the Dominion Archives Building. The National Museums of Canada Corporation also took control of the War Museum’s operations that same year.
In the 1990s, after the Canadian Museum of History Corporation had taken over management, the War Museum was in a bit of a rough shape. Despite a federal government task force urging that more funds be given to the museum, not much was handed out. This prompted the founding of a “Friends of the Canadian War Museum Group” to help with fundraising.
The government announced in 2000 that the Museum would soon be moved to a new location. Eventually deciding that the new building should be in LeBreton Flats, construction began in 2002. The new and improved War Museum opened in May 2005, on the 60th anniversary of World War II’s Victory in Europe Day. A 50-cent stamp was released that day to celebrate the opening.
Places to Visit Nearby
Just a five-minute walk from the War Museum is the Canadian Firefighters Memorial. It features a life-size bronze statue that represents all firefighters across the country. The surrounding area has various features that are part of the memorial as well. It’s a pretty place to explore.
Right next to the memorial is the Ottawa Pumphouse which is a paddling park. Whether you’re looking to take to the water yourself or watch the high-level athletes who train there, it’s a beautiful area.
For more information visit the Canadian War Museum website.
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