Wednesday 19 April 2017

Canada 150 -- Ottawa Museum Roundup

If you haven’t already heard, let me tell you: Canada celebrates its 150th birthday this year. It’s a big deal for Canada, and it’s a really big deal for me -- 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of our little family’s arrival in Canada.
It was 1967. Centennial Year. Expo ’67.

It was February. It was cold. Bloody cold!

We weren’t prepared for the cold. How could we have been? We were coming from the Azores where a cold day meant a head scarf and a thick sweater.

We flew from the island of Santa Maria in the north Atlantic direct to Montreal, on the now defunct Canadian Pacific airline. It was my first plane trip and I was unbelievably excited. I was dressed for the occasion too. My Sunday best as it were -- black-patent shoes, white ankle socks, a tartan pleated skirt with matching jacket. It was an outfit right out of a Scottish dress shop, which was strange since we’d never been to Scotland.

My best Scottish outfit

It was dark when we landed in Montreal and snow was falling. SNOW! I’d never seen snow. It was all so thrilling. I descended the airplane staircase feeling the bitter cold-wind whipping around my bare, scrawny legs. The ankle socks weren’t cutting it. Once I reached the ground, an airline employee quickly wrapped a blanket around me. That was my introduction to Canada. Cold. Dark. Snowy. Caring. Generous. I’ve loved it ever since.

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, and my own 50 years in this great land, I’m planning on heading somewhere yet to be discovered. By me that is. I’m happy to say I’ve (just about) travelled this country from coast to coast. 

I’ve seen icebergs in Newfoundland; whales in Quebec; totem poles in British Columbia. I’ve walked icefields in Alberta; swam in the chilly waters of Georgian Bay (Ontario); jigged for cod in Nova Scotia. I’ve eaten scallops in New Brunswick; lobster in Prince Edward Island; buffalo burgers in Manitoba. The adventures I’ve had across this vast country are too great to summarize in one paragraph. Still, there are more out there.

photo via Rocky Mountaineer

I’ve not been to: Saskatchewan, which puts it high on my list of possible journeys this year. I’ve also not been to Canada’s north. I want to experience the mid-night sun and the aurora borealis (norther lights). Canada’s arctic is definitely on the list. Decisions, decisions.

Meanwhile, Ottawa is Canada-150 Party Central. There is so much happening in Canada's capital this year, it really should be on everyone's travel plans. To get you started, here is a quick roundup of what is happening in the various museums around the city.

The Bytown Museum celebrates its 100th anniversary by showcasing objects from its permanent collection in A Century of CommunityIt runs until February 19, 2018.

photo via Bytown Museum
At the  Diefenbunker:Canada's Cold War Museum, Canadian artist Valerie Noftle's exhibition From the Hand, exploring the stories of veterans through photographs of their hands, runs until July 30, 2017.

On June 21, 2017, a new permanent Canada Goose Arctic Gallery  opens at the Canadian Museum of Nature, focusing on the ecology of one of the world's harshest climates. 

photo via Canadian Museum of Nature 

At the Canadian War Museum, the 100th anniversary of the pivotal Battle of Vimy Ridge is commemorated between April 6 and November 12, 2017 with the exhibition Vimy - 100 Years.

photo via Canadian War Museum

The Canadian Museum of History opens its new Canadian History Hall, on July 1, 2017. It tells the story of Canada through 18 "chapters" of artifacts in three galleries. Until then, catch Hockey, until October 9, 2017, which explores Canada's historic love of the sport of hockey and its impact on Canadian identity.

photo via Canadian Museum of History

At the National Gallery of Canada, a number of exhibitions are happening including, Photography in Canada: 1960-2000 (April 7-September 17); PhotoLab 2: Women Speaking Art (April 7-October 1, 2017) and Canadian and Indigenous Art: 1968 to Present (May 3, 2017-May 6, 2018). This all leads up to the unveiling of the new renovated and integrated Canadian and Indigenous Galleries on June 15, 2017.

And finally, watch for the reopening of the Bank of Canada Museum (formerly the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada), this summer and the completely renovated Canada Science and Technology Museum in November 2017.

photo cvia Bank of Canada Museum

Canada's National Museums Passport has been revamped and now offers admission to 3 national museums, over 3 consecutive days. It costs $35. Each accompanying child (17 and under) receives a 30% discount on general admission. The passport is available at the six national museums that participate in the program, as well as at the Capital Information Kiosk across from Parliament Hill. You can find full details here.

Whoa! All this and so much more. 
Check it all out here.

photo via


  1. Hi Maria,
    Congratulations on celebrating your 50th anniversary of arrival in Canada. I love the photo of the little girl (you). Very stylish. Our parents really dressed us up back then and we were cooler than we knew!
    Thank you for sharing your story of your flight to Canada. It brought back memories of my own trip one year later on yet another cold February day!
    How wonderful that after all these decades we can learn of one another and share our stories.

    1. LOL! stylish indeed!! I think so often of the courage our parents had to leave what they knew for the complete unknown aND I am eternally grateful they did. :)

  2. Katharine Baker26 April 2017 at 17:22

    Emanuel Melo (above) and I attended the following conference series' Fall 2016 gathering on São Miguel, where I presented a talk based on some translating work on which we collaborated.

    By coincidence, this fall's conference is on your native Santa Maria, so I thought you might be interested in attending (I hope to be there). The only catches are that everyone has to give their presentations in Portuguese, and a 15-minute limit is strictly enforced:
    it's also possible to attend as a "presencial" without giving a talk.

    Do you think you might be interested in it, and talking about a relevant topic (perhaps your travel writings re Portugal)?