A recent visit to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa was an excursion recommended by Jan, an executive member of the Ottawa Valley Quilters’ Guild. A stop not on my original agenda I contemplated the relevance and whether it would capture my interest. Jan insisted that the architecture alone would be worth a visit. If that was not enough the molds of the Vimy Memorial might be another great reason to venture to one of Ottawa’s newest sights.
Thursday afternoons the museum offers free admission from 4 – 8 pm. We arrived close to 6 pm and walked into the first exhibit covering the war of 1812. The anniversary of these momentous events had been the focus since we arrived in the eastern part of Ontario. From Kingston and Prescott to Ottawa there was no escaping countless exhibits, flags and historical plaques.
We made our way from exhibit hall to exhibit hall covering wars and conflicts Canada had been involved in since before the country’s inception. My personal interest was not in the war, tanks, guns, canons, camouflage gear or uniforms. Yes, I can appreciate the intricate metal embroidery on a historical English uniforms but that is where my appreciation begins and ends… I apologize to those readers who take a more active interest. I found the sound effects of sniper fire carrying across the space very unsettling and after an hour I was ready to seek the exit!
However, I was on a mission: I was determined to locate the molds and 17 plaster models that are part of the Vimy Ridge WW I Memorial – and time was running out. Finally – at about 7:15 pm we found the door to a staircase that descended into semi-darkness. I had reached my destination! I was immediately transported back in time. Each model evoked strong emotions and it was difficult to tear myself away from these life-like statues so masterfully created between 1925 and 1936. The primary reason for this interest was that this spring I read “The Stone Carvers” by Jane Urquhart, a Canadian author who brought to life fictional characters that were instrumental in creating the Vimy Ridge Memorial.
Flash photography was not allowed, so I played with the F stop and aperture on my camera to utilize the manual settings. I am pleased with the outcome – the low light conditions add to the mystique of each sculpture. It was quiet in the exhibition space – finally! And I found it difficult to exit, especially since the final hall is filled with military transport vehicles, tanks and a large plane suspended from the ceiling.
We rounded out our visit by exploring the lookout point from the grass covered roof top capturing pictures of Ottawa at sunset and the Peace Tower in the distance while contemplating the exhibits we had visited. In closing I want to mention that the architecture did not disappoint, despite the first impression of entering a concrete bunker. The concrete sections are interspersed strategically with glass allowing natural light to enter into specific designed areas. As we left our parking space and looked back the lights streamed from the window sections illuminating the building and diffusing the stark concrete lines.