Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 2 – The Canadian Museum of History


 

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The other location I made a point in visiting was the Canadian Museum of History. Formally named the Canadian Museum of Civilization, they have amazing artifacts from the early Peoples in Canada to the modern age. Yet this is not the reason why I wanted to visit this museum. They have a special exhibit entitled – The Greeks – Agamemnon to Alexander the Great.   This special exhibit has over 500 artifacts from Greek Museums that span from the earliest moment of the ancient Greek civilization up to Alexander the Great.  

The day I went to see the exhibit was one of the hottest days this summer and I decided to park my car in Ottawa and walk to the museum. However, if you know the capital region the museum is in Hull Quebec and I had to walk a kilometer in the 33o C with the humidity it felt like 40o C.   Yet for some reason I enjoy the hot weather and I relished the walk across the, Alexandra Bridge. It seemed appropriate for the occasion.

 

The Canadian Museum of History

 

Once at the museum I bypassed the regular exhibits (I have seen them when I came to Ottawa on an earlier trip) and went straight for the Greek exhibit. I have to tell you that I was in awe when I entered. They had artifacts dating back to 5300 – 4800 BCE with female fertility figurines. The amazing thing is that I saw similar artifacts in Malta from around the same time.

There were countless more artifacts that made me stop and take notice. Such things as urns with depictions of Achilles fighting and dragging Hector’s body. Statues of ancient heroes, birth of the Olympic Games, family seal rings, artifacts that depict the Iliad and Odyssey, ancient coins, head busts of Plato, Aristotle and Alexander and many, many more. In the end I cannot tell you all about each one. But I can tell you about a few that made me stop and in wonder.  

Boar-Tusk Helmet, Sparta, 13th Century BCE

One amazing artifact was an ancient Boar-tusk Helmet on display. This helmet was worn in battle and created from the tusks of up to 50 boars. The amazing thing about this artifact is that the warrior or hunter had to hunt down all the boars for the tusks. Imagine it’s the 15th century BCE and you’re hunting down 50 wild boars, each weighing between 75 – 100 kg, with ancient weapons such as spears and bows and arrows. It makes you think that our ancestors were made of sterner stuff.

The most impressive artifacts were made of, naturally, gold. One such artifact was something I knew about through my studies in university on the ancient Greek and Roman culture. Hienrich Schliemann found this amazing artifact in the ruins of Mycenae. He found many royal burial sites in the city, one that dated back to the time when the story of the Iliad probably took place. In one such burial site he found a death mask, which he called the “Mask of Agamemnon”.

A death mask is placed over the face of the mummified person. Schliemann associated the discovery to the Greek hero of the mythical conqueror of Troy. He actually discovered the top mask first and proclaimed “I have gazed upon the eyes of Agamemnon.” He later found a second death mask of a bearded man. Its beauty and detail convinced Schliemann to change his mind and associated this second mask to Agamemnon.

Funeral Mask – 16th Century BCE

The “Mask of Agamemnon” – 16th Century BCE

These masks were breathtaking and a wonder to behold. I remembered studying these moments in history in university and going over images of these artifacts but know I can see them in person. Many of these artifacts have never left Greece before now and it was a privilege to behold them in all their wonder.

 

Even though I enjoyed the Greek exhibit I did indulge in a couple of other exhibitions. There was the 1867 – Rebellion & Confederation exhibit that showed the events and motivations that brought the different regions of Canada together to create this great nation. Most of the events shown in the exhibit I knew about, but I had to stop and think that not many people in Canada take the time to actually look into how Canada was created. This was a great way to refresh my memory and for students and new Canadians to understand where we came from and why things happened.

The other exhibit I made a point on visiting was the Terry Fox – Running to the Heart of Canada exhibit. If you do not know about Terry Fox he is a Canadian legend who had cancer and decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. The amazing thing was that Terry had his leg amputated and was running across Canada with a prosthetic lime. Today prosthetics are pretty advanced with amputees running and jumping like they never lost a limb. But in the early 1980s technology was not so advanced. His leg had a simple hinge that helped a bit with his running. But Terry suffered as he ran with his signature step hope but he pushed on. Today many people continue the run Terry started, raising millions for cancer research. The best part was the section where you can see all the letters and cards Terry received from people, including children, supporting him and just thanking him. On the back wall you can leave a note saying why Terry Fox is important to you. I left a note saying,

 

Terry showed you can do anything so long as put your mind to it.

Thanks Terry for giving me hope.   Paul Gauchi

In the end that is what this whole experience meant to me. From the birth of a civilization, to the struggle of a group of colonies coming together to create a nation, to the desire of a young man wanting to make a difference. That is what this museum will always have at it core. Hope for the human race, that we can do anything so long as we put our minds to it.

 

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