Week One: Riddles in the Snow
Of course we realize that Ottawa’s Winterlude festival is all about embracing the winter, getting out there and laughing at old Jack Frost in a Canadian way. During the last few Winterludes, we could sometimes be forgiven if we felt like there were only two possible meteorological scenarios: too warm to skate or too cold for anything. Luckily, no matter what the weather, this year’s Winterluders are going to be able to count on the Bank of Canada Museum for some winter-themed indoor activities for families out and about; perfect for either warming up or drying off.
We actually had reasonable weather here in Ottawa on February 3 and welcomed many visitors to the Museum for our first Winterlude activity: Riddles in the Snow. This scavenger hunt, is always popular with kids and gets to take an interest in the artifacts. This can result in minor pandemonium as dozens of little humans dodge around the other visitors in search of the correct items. But, being generally three feet and under, they don’t tend to get in the way. Those not into scavenging stepped over to the craft area where we’d set up a guilloche station. What the heck is that? You know those beautiful geometric loop patterns on bank notes? That’s guilloche, and we have a few stations where the kids can make beautiful patterns like the kind their parents made with the old Spirograph© game.
But wait, we had a few special visitors around lunch time on both days: The Winterlude Ice Hogs. They turned up for a few hugs and photo ops, much to the kids’ delight. We didn’t manage to get them to take a tour of the Museum, though—they are very busy groundhogs indeed.
Follow the blog for updates on the next few Winterlude weekends.
Week Two: Cold Hard Cash
The weekend of February 10 saw 191 visitors coming in from the cold to visit the Museum and check out our currency demonstration. Always keen to show off our high-tech polymer bank notes, the staff provided visitors with a pretty cool demonstration of just how tough our money is. Not actually using real bank notes, staff members tested some unprinted polymer material to show just how resilient it really is. They froze it, drowned it and poured sticky liquids on it. Polymer being polymer, it suffered no ill effects apart from a few wrinkles. Visitors took a quiz before the demonstration asking them to predict what would happen to a polymer note under those kinds of conditions. They were pretty surprised when they saw the answers for themselves.
Although they weren’t tested on it, visitors were also given a demonstration of the security features of our notes and invited to inspect their own money—just to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit. Not to worry, nobody had any bad bills.
Drop by here next week for a report on our final weekend’s Winterlude events: the Fur Trade.
Week Three: The Fur Trade
Winterlude at the Museum was extra special on the weekend of February 16-17. Métis elder Archie Martin and his wife Pierrette were on hand with their collection of fur trade era artifacts and props. Archie and Pierrette are experienced educators who’ve shared their knowledge of Indigenous and Métis history with thousands of Canadians. They are master story tellers and extremely passionate about their subject.
Visitors were fascinated by Archie’s stories of a Canada long past, of European and Indigenous trappers, Voyageurs, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the life and work of the trapper. It’s not often that the visitors get to touch anything in a museum and the kids (and adults) were very pleased to be able to touch the soft, luxuriant pelts he had on display. I’m not sure how much the little ones enjoyed the cedar tea we had on offer, but there was plenty of hot chocolate for the less adventurous.
Altogether we had 951 visitors come to our Winterlude weekends and, although we couldn’t promise skating, tobogganing or beaver tails, we provided lots of economic winter fun and a river of hot chocolate for dozens of families.
It was farewell to the Currency Museum as we know it this past Canada Day. Our annual 1 July event was circus-themed this year, featuring children’s games, clowns, balloon sculptures and ice cream.
Summertime: a time to relax and, for most of us, to travel. Years ago, advertisers used to tell us how easy it was to travel: you only needed your bikini, your toothbrush and, naturally, a good travel agency to set you up anywhere in the world. That might still be true for people but for travelling exhibitions the packing process is a bit more involved.
The Staff of the Currency Museum was saddened to learn of the passing of artist Alex Colville who died on 16 July at his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He was 92. One of Canada’s most celebrated painters, Colville is not as well-known as a sculptor but if you look carefully through your pocket change you might just find an example of his work.
The roots of the Currency Museum go back to 1959 when the then Governor of the Bank of Canada, James Coyne, proposed the idea of establishing a currency collection that would reflect the colourful monetary history of Canada. By the time the go-ahead was given in 1963 by Coyne’s successor, Louis Rasminsky, the collection’s mandate had been expanded to include world monetary history, banking and production artifacts and a numismatic library.
We are very excited about this, our museum’s new digital dimension. As the doors close on 2 July for the next three years or so, we are endeavoring to keep them virtually open with a lively flow of reports and updates on the progress of our re-invention.