A ‘place of respite’: War and history museums welcome visitors again in the age of COVID-19


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Coming to work Thursday morning felt a bit like back to school for Chantal Amyot, director of exhibitions and visitor experience at the Canadian Museum of History.

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“I can’t tell you how exciting it is. I have worked at the museum for 32 years,” Amyot said. “It’s our job to share this Canadian history and show these artifacts, so it’s amazing to be able to do it again.”

On March 14, all of Canada’s national museums closed to the public in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the country. After four months, the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum reopened on Thursday in a limited fashion, once again welcoming visitors with mostly outdoor programming.

Both museums offer self-guided architectural tours and outdoor performances – military vehicle demonstrations at War and Aboriginal dances at History. While most indoor spaces remain off-limits, museum interpreters lead guided tours of the War Museum’s LeBreton Gallery and the History Museum’s Great Hall.

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The now standard COVID-19 health and safety protocols are in place – mandatory masks indoors, physical distancing and intensified cleaning.

Visiting hours are Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free admission. Tickets must be reserved online for two-hour blocks and will be available every Monday. Both museums are already sold out for the rest of this week.

“I think that says a lot,” said Caroline Dromaguet, acting director general of the War Museum. “I think people missed coming to the museum, they missed that connection to the building, the artifacts, that whole experience.”

The Canadian War Museum opened on Lebreton Flats in 2005 and receives approximately 500,000 visitors each year. Across the bridge, the Canadian Museum of History (which opened in Gatineau in 1989 as the Museum of Civilization) is the most visited in Canada, attracting more than 1.2 million people each year.

“I think museums have always been this place of respite, and a place where you have a dialogue and deepen your knowledge about yourself,” Amyot said, reflecting on the role of museums in the age of COVID-19. .

“There’s also the comparison of things that have happened in the past – things that people have come through, the resilience of communities through hardship… They inspire us today.”


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