Douglas Cardinal and the Canadian Museum of History: A story to (re)discover

June 26, 2024

For immediate release

On June 29, 1989, the Canadian Museum of History opened the doors of its iconic new building for the very first time. As the Museum celebrates the past 35 years, it is also paying tribute to its illustrious designer Douglas Cardinal, with a special presentation on his life and legacy.

Until October 6, the Museum will be featuring a special display on the world-renowned architect. Exploring his early life, his first design projects, his vision for the Museum’s buildings and his global contributions, the display is oriented around the directions of the Medicine Wheel, which has informed so much of Cardinal’s life and work.

“We are so pleased to be offering a special presentation honouring Douglas Cardinal’s visionary idea for this building constructed 35 years ago,” said Caroline Dromaguet, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Museum of History. “It houses and shares a wealth of community and national stories and, since opening in 1989, has become such a beloved part of our urban landscape that it’s hard to imagine the National Capital Region without them. I am grateful for Douglas’s wisdom, foresight, creativity and enduring commitment to our Museum.”

Divided into four sections — The Man (east), The Architect (south), The Vision (west), and The Legacy (north) — this new presentation gives visitors an opportunity to learn more about the largest object the Museum holds, the building itself, through photographs and other items belonging to Mr. Cardinal such as sketches, models and multiple awards.

“When I was designing the Museum, I felt that it should be a learning and teaching centre,” said Douglas Cardinal. “We should learn from the past and not keep repeating our mistakes. We must learn to live in harmony with each other and with our Mother, the Earth.”

Cardinal’s design has earned him a place among the world’s most renowned architects. Over the years, he has collaborated with the Museum on several other projects, including the redevelopment and redesign of the Canadian History Hall, the largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Canadian history ever created.

Since its inauguration, the Canadian Museum of History has stood across from Parliament Hill, on the banks of the Ottawa River. With its sinuous lines, and evocation of this country’s landscape and Indigenous Peoples, this striking architectural masterpiece is a must-see and continues to attract people from all over the world.

Douglas Cardinal, who recently turned 90, continues to design and innovate. He has worked on numerous inspiring and groundbreaking projects across this country and abroad. The public can learn even more about his life and career through the Museum’s new and captivating oral history project, Shaping Canada, which features interviews with influential public figures who had a demonstrable and extraordinary impact on contemporary Canada.

Located on the banks of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History attracts over 1.2 million visitors each year. The Museum’s principal role is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the events, experiences, people and objects that have shaped Canada’s history and identity, as well as to enhance Canadians’ awareness of world history and culture. Work of the Canadian Museum of History is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.

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