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.
In one of my favourite cinematic moments, the 11 year-old chess prodigy, Josh Waitzkin, imagines sweeping the pieces off a chess board in order to help him think more clearly about an important game of chess. It is a championship game and he is on the brink of winning it all.
For the first time since they went into their cases in 1980, over 2000 coins, notes, beads and shells are coming back out. The Museum’s curatorial staff are busily pulling panels from cases, placing coins into specially prepared drawers and sliding notes into acid-free Mylar envelopes.
The doors were barely closed following Big Top Farewell event before Chief Curator Paul Berry and his team began emptying display cases that had been sealed shut since 1980. The biggest task involved removing more than 2500 bank notes from the room we knew as Gallery 8.
Another convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) wrapped up in July. This year the convention was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was the first time in over thirty years that the RCNA Convention made a stop there.
Before the museum closed for renovations on 2 July, technicians began to remove the heavier artifacts in late May. First to go was the strong box. Built of ¼” thick welded steel plates, this trunk was used by the Bank of Upper Canada in Toronto between 1821 and 1866.
Most of us know the first part of Alexander Graham Bell’s take on opportunity: “When one door closes, another one opens…” What we often don’t recall is the second half of that quote, where he says: “…but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
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.