Gas Masks and Port Holes

The Canadian War Museum is a sight in itself. The building is very angular and the tower that rises from it, that aligns with the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, makes it even more striking on the landscape. I found the museum quite eerie to begin with; the vast entrance hall had barely anyone in it, and those who were there, were silent. However as we entered further into the museum there were more people making me feel more comfortable. There were still barely anyone in comparison to any other museum that I have visited which was lovely. The environment was far more peaceful allowing you to take your time, wandering around, appreciating the exhibits.

The museum has a very logical layout, with handy arrows guiding you around the sections, which for me was great. I always hate museums that have various little rooms attached to the main areas that confuse you over what you have already seen or not. There are five distinct exhibitions at the museum:

  • Battleground: Wars on our Soil, earliest times to 1885
  • For Crown and Country: The South African and First World Wars, 1885-1931
  • Forged in Fire: The Second World War, 1931-1945
  • A Violent Peace: The Cold War, Peacekeeping, and Recent Conflicts, 1945 to the present
  • LeBreton Gallery: an exhibit of military transport

The main exhibits look at Canada’s role in War chronologically. It is interesting to see the history of Canada till confederation as well as wars that I have studied far more, but this time from a Canadian perspective. This alternative perspective makes the Museum unique from those at home. However I found the ‘LeBreton’ gallery a little disappointing; frankly the displays of similar nature are phenomenal at home and unfortunately the Canadian War Museum could not compete.

There were a few notable artefacts from the museum that I really loved:

  • A uniform (I cannot remember from what century but it was in the first section so would have been up till Confederation) where you could clearly see the hole from the bullet that killed it’s owner.
  • A small collection of gas masks. There is something about them that I find ever so creepy, especially after the Doctor Who episode from the period a few years ago. There were the standard masks as well as some that I haven’t seen before that looked like small potato sacks with little eye holes, there was something very KKK-esque about that one.
  • A Port Hole from RMS Lusitania – the ocean liner that was sunk by a German U-Boat, en-route from America. The disaster killed many and was one of the contributing factors in the United States entering World War II.
  • The Bear Suit. This suit was for pilots to wear under their uniform to help keep them warm. It looked like the most snuggly onesie that I had ever seen.
  • Hitler’s Parade Car. This was the car used by Hitler when he attended public events. There was something very chilling, knowing that he had sat in that car. It was a strange feeling.
  • The Berlin Wall. A chunk of the wall was donated to Canada, I forget why. I am yet to visit Berlin so I have never seen any of it and I was taken aback by its size.

I am a big fan of museums but I felt the Museum was very accessible. I am sure anyone would enjoy their visit around the museum; there is enough to keep one interested but not too much that you hate History by the end of it.

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