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Off the beaten path of Ottawa museums

April 2, 2018
Ryan Pepper, The Fulcrum

This summer, check out the city’s lesser known museums

Ottawa is a city of museums. Institutions like the Canadian Museum of History, the War Museum, or the new Museum of Science and Technology are packed full of artifacts, interactive exhibits, and are a great place to spend half a day. But Ottawa is also crowded with smaller museums devoted to a single topic or local history that are just as fascinating as the big ones.

With the summer fast approaching, a lot of students are heading home or going abroad. But just as many of you will be staying in Ottawa for the warmer months. These smaller museums make great outings that won’t take up your whole day (the larger museums, I can speak from experience, are time-consuming, exhaustive affairs).

One such museum is the Bytown Museum, which has been preserving Ottawa history for over one hundred years. The museum is next to the Rideau Canal, and is housed in the oldest building in Ottawa, the Commissariat Building, which was built in 1827 as the headquarters for the canal project.

The bottom floor deals with the building of the canal, and contains artifacts used by the engineers, stonemasons, and mainly Irish and French-Canadian labourers who carved out the 202-kilometre canal between 1826 and 1832. The upper two floors deal with the early history of Ottawa, and shed some interesting light on what was once called the most dangerous city in North America.

Little known relics of Ottawa’s past, like the Stony Monday Riots which saw the Tory and Reformist factions hurling rocks at each other over the canal in anger at the Rebellion Losses Bill, or the Shiner’s War in which a local timber baron raised a private Irish army to wreck French Canadian lumber rafts, are highlighted at this fascinating museum. Best of all, admission is $5 for students, and the museum can easily be done in under two hours.

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