What do the electric wheelchair, paint rollers, garbage bags and basketball have in common? They’re all Canadian inventions that have changed the world.
But if you want to get the full history of incredible Canadian innovation, head over to the Canada Science And Technology Museum in Ottawa for live science experiments, engaging light installations, and familiar artifacts you may recognize from your grandma’s house. Everywhere you look, there are grand machines, musical displays, a room of giant trains and even a hitch-hiking robot.
The Canada Science and Technology Museum is one of the three Ottawa-based Ingenium museums (including the Canada Aviation And Space Museum and Canada Agriculture And Food Museum at a working farm located inside a Canadian city) that focus on Canadian innovation and technological heritage with an inspiring array of exhibits, (Tip: If you’ve never visited, or it’s been a while, CAA Members save 25% on single entry tickets!). Not sure where to begin? Here are some of the top things you should see at the Canada Science And Technology Museum.
Old technologies in Artifact Alley
You’ll first walk through Artifact Alley as you enter the museum space — it’s the central hub from which other exhibitions are connected and features about 700 artifacts.
Discover a towering wall of electronics through the decades in the second half of the hallway-style exhibit. A video projector, transistor radio, public payphone, wall clocks, CRT TV, digital cameras, calculator, typewriter and similar items spanning generations are displayed. Wondering what happened to all this low-tech from ages past? Pull out your cell phone — and think about how all these pieces of technology are connected in one small device that’s held in your pocket. The evolution of a smartphone is laid out clearly before you.
As you admire the array of Canadian relics, keep your eyes peeled for the large lighthouse Fresnel Lens — a glass dome that allowed mariners to see a lighthouse beam from long distances and looks like a piece of modern art — and hitchBOT Robot — a robot with a personality that hitchhiked across the country in 2014.
As you’re discovering the evolution of sound technology over the past 150 years in Sound by Design, don’t miss the black padded booth at the edge of the exhibition. The Quiet Cube is a room specifically designed to eradicate echo. Go in alone or with your group, you’ll be astonished at how outside sound is silenced and any sound you make is muffled. Check out the intensity of the sound measured within the cube, contrasting how much quieter it is than its exterior.
There are plenty of other interactive installations in the Sound by Design exhibit, too. The large disc-looking display titled ‘Play a Groove’, allows you to play DJ as you choose from five songs, altering the speed of the tune as you scratch the glowing record.
The Crazy Kitchen dates back to 1967 when the museum doors first opened and showcased its original interactive experience. When the museum underwent a refresh, it was one of the very few exhibits to remain, by public demand. The exterior may have a new, modern look to flow with the rest of the exhibit, but the kitchen itself is exactly what you recall from childhood. If you’ve never walked through – it’s a trip. It tricks your brain by giving it two different messages at once and will likely make you feel a bit dizzy while inside.
There are other engaging pieces that focus on illusions and how your senses can fool you. You may also recognize the nearby upside-down lab. Take your photo and invert it for a playful addition to the ‘gram.
The exhibitions that sandwich the Crazy Kitchen host related themes. In Medical Sensations you can explore the sphere of medicine with your senses, and in Hidden Worlds you can discover different worlds through microscopes and telescopes.
One of the grandest things you’ll see up close at the Canada Science And Technology Museum are the real trains. The steam locomotives are the only other original museum exhibition in addition to the Crazy Kitchen. Step back in time to the grit and glamour of steam transportation between 1900 and 1960 Canada in Steam: A World in Motion. From those who built and ran them, to the people who rode them, you’ll learn history as you stand in awe of these machines.
You’re able to climb up into one of the train cabs and gain a clearer idea of what it was like to operate the locomotives. Peek inside a Canadian Pacific Railway Locomotive 3100 from 1928, which was larger and more powerful than anything else on the rails at the time in Canada. There were only two of them since they were such heavy structures, and you can get close enough to touch one at the museum.
A favourite with kids, they can admire these larger-than-life trains and climb through the cab to step into a different world. Adults who had visited these locomotives as kids reported reliving fond memories from their childhood. The museum houses some other larger-than-life artifacts from the past, including vintage cars, bicycles, snowmobiles and a trailer camper.
From Earth To Us
Unearth how natural elements turn into day-to-day objects from energy sources to plastics. From hydrogen to uranium, you can stroll through the periodic table and discover how natural resources apply to our world in From Earth to Us. You’ll look at real-world displays and examples of materials we enjoy in everyday life and marvel at how science turns elements into materials and energies.
Kids and adults alike will appreciate an overflowing dollhouse full of colourful toys through the ages and can make the ceiling light up using an interactive art piece of dancing lightbulbs. Some of the lightbulbs in the installation date back to 1880 and consists of 1867 bulbs that seem to flow above you and turn on and off in different sequences. Control the light piece from below and look up to watch.
There’s nothing more engaging than live experiments and science demos, whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart. The Canada Science And Tech Museum, as it’s known, excels at highly entertaining demos that bring science to life. Observe the effects of liquid nitrogen, learn about the history of fire and how they’ve impacted innovative technologies over the years.
Experiments take place four times a day, throughout the year. The shows are included in your admission ticket, so check the times and make your way to the stage for an entertaining and informative presentation.