January 16, 2010
Vanier Museoparc

My New Year's resolution is to visit all of our local museums, but I'm hoping to avoid spending a lot of money in the process.  Luckily, Ottawa's library system has family museum passes available that you can take out in order to get free admission to many of our local museums.  Actually, a google search reveals that many libraries offer free passes to local museums! 


The passes tend to be in hot demand so I placed a hold request on a couple of them.  The Renfrew county museum network pass (hold #15) came the next day, while the Ottawa Museum network pass (hold #623) came within five days.  We're still waiting for the Museum Privilege card for the Museum of Civilization (hold #2618).  I rarely sign up for items with such long wait times (thinking I'd be waiting several years), but it looks like the high number of holds shouldn't be a deterrent for museum passes as they have quite a number in circulation and the pass can only be kept for a week at a time. 


When our first pass arrived, Auntie Yukiko, Erika, Elizabeth and I were all set to check out the Billings Estate Museum but it's actually closed this time of year. Lesson learned - check the visiting dates as well as the hours!


We ended up at the Vanier Museoparc instead.  It's located just down the street from the hospital where Elizabeth was born but even so it was a little bit challenging to find (buried inside the Vanier community centre).  Sadly, we didn't end up needing our free pass since the museum doesn't charge admission in the first place.  We actually only saw part of what the Museoparc has to offer as it purportedly boasts the only sugar shack within the city limits but you have to reserve with a group of at least 15 people.  The grounds outside also look like they'd be fun to explore... in the summertime. The actual museum consists of a only few rooms. Yukiko and I found the presentation of the area's history interesting if a little on the skimpy side, Elizabeth appreciated being able to crawl around and Erika nearly got us kicked out when she leaned against a "wall" that wasn't solid, knocking down part of the exhibit.


I was surprised to learn that Vanier is a relatively new name (the area was called Eastview until 1969).  You can still see local businesses with the Eastview name but I had no idea that this had any relevance before our visit.  Yukiko was surprised to learn that Governors General could be male. I found the assumption that our Governors General are always female extremely cool.  We live in a country where women were not legally "responsible adults" until 1978, but a mere five years later our first female Governor General was appointed and now Canada has had a female Governor General continuously in office since 1999!


Erika was interested in the adult potty chair, which, if you can believe the captions, was apparently still in use in the Vanier area in the early 1900s - after our house and hers was built!  I'm a little suspicious of the dates in the captions though since I thought one of the panels stated that Eastview changed to Vanier in 1921.  (My inlaws were able to set me straight as Grandpa J was actually in Ottawa when Eastview still existed.)


If you are going with children, the best part of the museum is the three electronic quizzes located just outside by the elevators.  The panel that asks you to match the picture of the bird with its corresponding bird call was a huge hit; Elizabeth and Erika were just fascinated.  We probably spent at least as much time hanging out in the hall as we did in the museum proper!

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