What do a XIXth century British military engineer and the Canadian Museum of Civilization have in common?


In 1833, Lieutenant Henry Pooley painted a watercolour  titled "The Entrance of the Rideau Canal, Ottawa".  As an engineer, drawing was a highly disciplined and exact art, necessary in his profession.  Pooley applied that same rigour to his depiction of landscapes.  He chose to cross the Ottawa River and view the entrance to the canal from the north side of the river.  He also painted the mouth of the canal from Barrack's Hill, what is today Parliament Hill.  However, the spot he chose on the north shore was occupied by a small Native encampment.  It is virtually the identical location where the Canadian Museum of Civilization now stands.  In fact, if one stands beside the Museum's fountain at the top of the stairs between the two wings of the Museum, the vantage is identical to the one Pooley painted, although the view is somewhat blocked by trees near the modern shore.

That spot, is also the place where sand and gravel were quarried in the mid-XIXth century when building the East and the West Blocks of the parliament buildings; edifices which still stand today.  T.W.E. Sowter, an amateur archaeologist from Aylmer recounted how he had been told during this quarrying, Indian relics had been found in large numbers (read his description).  It is thus likely that Native artifacts are actually part of the foundations of those buildings if not mixed into the very mortar of their joints.

It could be said that Lieut. Henry Pooley, 138 years ago, indicated the preferred location of the future Museum which would showcase the native cultures of this country.  This spot had in fact been prepared by innumerable generations of Native people who had earlier stopped and camped at this special place.

Plus ça change, plus c'est pareil!

Judge for youself the degree of correspondence between the Pooley watercolour and the view from the CMC's fountain.  Just click here.