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Annual Report 2019–2020


Year at a Glance

It was an exceptional year for both the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum. The Museum of History presented outstanding exhibitions on topics ranging from Neanderthals to contemporary Indigenous architecture, as well as continuing to plan for a renewed Canadian Children’s Museum.

The War Museum began its commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, looked at the traditions of Scottish Highland warriors and explored the ongoing relationship between art and war.

In addition, both Museums offered wide-ranging learning activities and programming for visitors of all ages and interests, collaborated with cultural institutions, community organizations and patrons across Canada and around the world, and provided audiences with authentic and engaging encounters with their history.

Annual Report 2019–2020 (PDF file)

Diverse Exhibitions and Displays

Canadian Museum of History

  • The Canadian History Hall celebrated its second anniversary, welcoming more than 1 million visitors to date.
  • UNCEDED – Voices of the Land shared unique Indigenous perspectives through the work of Indigenous architects and designers, as part of a breathtaking multimedia installation originally presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
  • Neanderthal explored the world of our prehistoric human cousins through art, science and the latest archaeological finds — presenting the largest collection of Neanderthal material ever shown in North America.
  • Footprints – A Walk Through Generations celebrated teachings, values and the rich cultural history passed down from ancestors of the Cree people of Northern Quebec.
  • Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood – A Grr-ific Exhibit and Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit both helped children explore themes such as kindness, family, health and well-being.
  • Jewish Journeys – Stories of Immigration From the Treasures of Library and Archives Canada explored the development of Canada’s Jewish community.
  • Peskotomuhkatiyik Skutik displayed items from a collection that the Museum is housing in trust for the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik.

Canadian War Museum

Two men posing in front of a large photograph of a shirtless man with tattoos and a long scar on his arm

Photographer Stephen J. Thorne and Corporal Gorden Boivin at the opening of The Wounded

  • The Wounded explored the seen and unseen scars of war through 18 black-and-white portraits by award-winning photojournalist Stephen J. Thorne.
  • The Canadian Forces Artists Program – Group 8 presented works by the most recent group of civilian artists to deploy with the Canadian Forces.
  • Highland Warriors examined the changing role and reputation of Scottish soldiers, from medieval warriors to elite modern regiments.
  • Invasion! Canadians and the Battle of Normandy, 1944 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day through photographs, stories and objects.
  • Portraits of Courage: President George W. Bush’s Tribute to America’s Veterans featured 51 paintings by the former U.S. President, created in recognition of the sacrifice and courage of men and women serving in conflict zones during his time as President.
  • World Press Photo – Exhibition 2019 featured 157 outstanding large-format photographs reflecting current events, social issues and natural phenomena, as part of an annual exhibition.

Thought-Provoking Cultural Programs and Activities

Canadian Museum of History

  • In its 27th year, the one-of-a-kind RBC Indigenous Internship Program offered Indigenous interns from across the country first-hand work experience in fields ranging from conservation to communications.
  • Evening events were well attended and included concerts, lectures, two History Nights and three instalments of the popular new An Evening With… series, which offers a unique look at the life and work of notable Canadians.
  • A new school program about Residential Schools in Canada was launched.
  • Dozens of family-oriented programs were presented for National Indigenous History Month, on Awesome Sundays and Culture Days, and for Canada Day, Halloween, Christmas, Winterlude and more.

Canadian War Museum

  • A sold-out World at War lecture, “75 Years Ago: D-Day and the Battle of Normandy,” featured historians Dr. Tim Cook and Dr. Jeff Noakes.
  • The Museum’s incredibly popular Supply Line school program introduced a Second World War version this year, which was fully booked for the fall term within weeks of launching.
  • A range of programs complementing special exhibitions, including Awesome Highlanders family programming and outdoor cinema nights, entertained and engaged visitors.

Sharing Our Exhibitions From Coast to Coast to Coast

  • More than 100,000 people have visited one or more of the Museums’ travelling exhibitions this year.
  • The Museums celebrated the opening of 12 different travelling exhibitions, at 20 venues across the country and internationally.
  • Seven Museum of History exhibitions were presented at venues in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Alaska.
  • Five War Museum exhibitions were presented at venues in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia, and in England and France.

Reimagining the Canadian Children’s Museum

Young girl in a blue shirt attaching a sticker to an image of a tree on a wall

Reimagining the Canadian Children’s Museum

  • Work continued on reimagining this family favourite for new generations of families.
  • To feed into the planning for the renewal, the Museum of History hosted a two-day international public symposium on family learning and the value of play, in which experts from around the world participated.
  • Planning continued for a selection of exciting special exhibitions and activities during the closure of the current Children’s Museum, ensuring that the fun never ends for families.
  • Much of this project is being guided by extensive public consultation, through external advisory committees and outreach surveys.

Innovative Research

  • Research was expanded in advance of a major acquisition of the Rick Hansen Man In Motion World Tour Collection.
  • Archaeological work continued for the Community Observation, Assessment and Salvage of Threatened Archaeological Legacy (COASTAL) project, and at a site at Wally’s Beach, Alberta.
  • Additional research was undertaken to enhance North American content for the exhibition Queens of Egypt, which had been scheduled to open in early May 2020.
  • The collection of remarkable first-hand accounts from Canadian veterans for the national oral history collection was increased.
  • Content was developed for exhibitions such as Highland Warriors and Invasion! Canadians and the Battle of Normandy, 1944.

Informative Publications

  • The souvenir catalogue Neanderthal, by curator Janet Young, was published in May 2019.
  • Place-Making in the Pretty Harbour: The Archaeology of Port Joli, Nova Scotia, by curator Matthew Betts, was released as part of the Mercury Series in December 2019.
  • Sharing Spaces: Essays in Honour of Sherry Olson by Robert Sweeny, also of the Mercury Series, appeared in March 2020.

Fruitful Partnerships

Man in a red shirt and baseball cap playing an Indigenous hand drum, while three other men watch and listen

Celebrating an important collaboration between the Museum of History and the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik

Canadian Museum of History

  • A high-profile program on Highclere Castle was developed in partnership with the Royal Ontario Museum and Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex.
  • A major national symposium on Indigenous material culture was planned with the Ontario Museum Association.
  • In collaboration with the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik, a unique collection of more than 100 items reflecting traditional Indigenous material culture was safeguarded.
  • The nationally broadcast 2019 Federal Leaders’ Debates were hosted in collaboration with the Canadian Debate Production Partnership.

Canadian War Museum

  • Continuing the partnership with Hot Docs — North America’s largest documentary festival — thought-provoking documentary films were presented from across Canada and around the world.
  • The Wounded, an exhibition of striking black-and-white portraits by photojournalist Stephen J. Thorne, was presented in partnership with Legion Magazine.
  • The successful Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture series was continued in partnership with Carleton University.

Fascinating Acquisitions

A woven wicker armchair with cream coloured floral seat cushions

Chair used by Her Royal Highness Princess Juliana of the Netherlands at the Ottawa Civic Hospital on January 19, 1943

  • A chair used by Princess Juliana of the Netherlands after giving birth to Princess Margriet at the Ottawa Civic Hospital on January 19, 1943.
  • Three corn-husk dolls made by Six Nations artist and author Elizabeth Doxtater, which were a traditional symbol of the harvest among the Haudenosaunee people and other Indigenous cultures.
  • A leather Oshawa Generals team jacket worn by Canadian hockey legend Bobby Orr during the 1964–1965 season, early in his career.
  • The Victoria Cross presented posthumously to Second Lieutenant Edmund De Wind — acquired with the generous support of donors.

Generous Donations

  • The Rick Hansen Man In Motion World Tour Collection, comprising over 1,700 objects and thousands of pieces of archival material from Rick Hansen’s life and the famous Man In Motion World Tour.
  • Two traditional Western Arctic parkas made by well-known Inuvialuit artist Agnes Nigiyok and generously donated by Dr. Françoise Bouchard.
  • A Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) collection featuring items used to teach Canadians to read and write in Braille.
  • The medal set belonging to Brigadier-General Sydney Valpy Radley-Walters, widely acknowledged as the Allies’ top tank ace during the Second World War.

Raising Funds to Preserve and Present Our Past

  • The Museum raised $2,553,000 this year, which represents 112% of the $2,275,000 target, and received gifts-in-kind valued at $613,817.
  • The Museum has 4,939 active donors; 1,370 of them were newly welcomed this year.
  • Of these new donors, 1,364 were welcomed into the annual giving program.


A wheelchair with a blue metal frame, four wheels and a bucket seat covered in silver duct tape

The first chair Rick Hansen used on the Man In Motion World Tour, showing the wear and tear of daily life on the road