Canada Science and Technology Museum set to reopen

The elegant telescope resting in its own humidity-controlled situation is further from home than its manufacturer would have probably ever imagined. When Eustachio Divini of Bologna put the finishing touches on the astronomical apparatus around 1665, this section of Canada lay in the edge of the known world so far as Europe wasnbsp;worried.

Yet, in the recently refurbished Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, the telescope is fulfilling its original purpose: impressing onlookers with its ornamented look and the allure of a strong and revealingnbsp;technologies.

“It is a showpiece”, said Marvin Bolt, a specialist in ancient telescopes and a curator in the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. “A number of these telescopes were made to be looked at instead of lookednbsp;through.”

Dr. Bolt was in town a week merely to find the tool, on loan from the Museo Galileo in Florence, Italy, and also to watch itsnbsp;installation.

Sporting a hard hat and safety vest, he was getting a sneak preview of the Ottawa centre, after its three-year closure and an $80-millionnbsp;makeover.

The shift marks a turning point for its federally funded museum, which was established in 1967 at a former commercial bakery some five kilometres fromnbsp;downtown.

For many years, it was a favorite destination for local kids and their parents searching for indoor fun during the long winternbsp;weeks.

However, the building’s utilitarian exterior and a reluctance by administrators to invest too heavily if it was one day given a more central place, supposed that the museum never actually looked the part of official shrine to Canadiannbsp;inventiveness.

But in 2014, after mold was detected and the building was shuttered for a down-to-the-bones renovation, the federal government dedicated to the website in a huge way. After the museum’s doors reopen to the public this Friday, curators will be hoping that their offering of glossy interactive displays together with unique historical artifacts will turn out to be an irresistible mix of past, current andnbsp;future.

“It was essentially creativity untapped,” said Christina Tessier, the museum’s director-general, describing how museum staff adopted the chance to reimagine thenbsp;distance.

For visitors, the museum experience will now begin before they walk in, using a giant LED screen that wraps around the front entry and white canopy along the building’s exterior which doubles as a 75-metre long projection display. Stepping inside, one discovers an alcove with an interactive light and sound bit inspired by the aurora borealis.

The tone of this new entry should leave no doubt, Ms. Tessier said, “You’re walking into a nationalnbsp;museum.”

The Divini telescope is just another indication of just how much has changed. Prior to closing, valuable items from global collections would not have found their way into the Ottawa museum due to the lack of proper facilities for them. The museum aims to be a desired stop for travelling artifacts and exhibitions that set its impressive collection in a largernbsp;narrative.

“Science is part of a global history and culture so we certainly wanted [the ability] to show that and to find unique discussions going,” curator David Pantalonynbsp;stated.

Which isn’t to say that the museum has been abandoning its neighborhood character. Returning displays include the “crazy kitchen,” a perspective-bending room that’s a perennial favorite with visitors. In its new incarnation, the kitchen is surrounded by a series of displays on humannbsp;understanding.

1 thing not returning is the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame, which in 2015 became the focus of controversy when a selection committee member quit in protest over a lack of female nominees. At the moment, the museum vowed to revisit the process for naming inductees into the hall’s roster of Canadian science achievers. It has since decided to retire the concept entirely. The portraits and names of those inducted during the 24 years the Hall of Fame was busy could be foundnbsp;online.

New additions that appear likely to become popular include a manufacturer space and an exploration zone for younger people. While such experiences are seen in other science centers around North America, what makes the Ottawa museum distinct is its distinctive role as keeper of the country’s most valued science and engineering icons. Highlights include the “Digital Sackbut“, a precursor to the modern synthesizer made by National Research Council physicist Hugh Le Caine from the 1940s, and North America’s first electron microscope, built at the University of Toronto in 1938. And from canoes to snowshoes, you will find ample reminders that the narrative of Canadian technologies predates Europeannbsp;arrival.

So extensive is the set, including items as big as locomotives and cars, it’s not possible to show more than a tiny portion of it. However, the museum has made the most of its grand suburban place to construct a 325,000-square-foot collection conservation center next door. Still under construction, the156.4-million centre already dwarfs the museum building beside it. When completed in 2019, it is going to become a hub for academic research and there are plans to hold public tours for those looking for a deeper dip into thenbsp;set.

“From what I have seen, we are one of the only national museums with a group of that size in such close proximity,” said Fern Proulx, acting CEO for Ingenium, the recently rebranded organization that manages a trio of National Capital museums surrounding agriculture, aviation and science andnbsp;technologies.

For people who can not get to Ottawa, the museum is unveiling a revamped online experience to boost its national reach. What remains to be seen is whether the nation will react. Despite polls that indicate Canadians have a positive attitude toward mathematics, it’s also not widely considered fundamental to the country’snbsp;personality.

The disconnect cropped up in an unexpected way this month when Governor-General Julie Payette sparked outrage for flippant remarks aimed at those who don’t accept climate change or development. Some accused her of espousing “scientism,” although the Canadian Science Policy Seminar, where Ms. Payette talked, otherwise garnered little serious policy. Regardless of the vital role science plays in economic prosperity and public health, a demonstrable lack of media attention, chronic government underfunding and declining business support for research and development relative to other developed countries imply there is currently little risk of Canada being overrun by a lot of scientificnbsp;believing.

Coincidentally, one of the museum’s exhibits features a Canadian-build ” newtsuit,” an articulated diving suit for deep seated exploration which has been worn by Ms. Payette during her time as a Canadian astronaut. The lawsuit stands not far from the Divini telescope, an item of high tech affluence which has been constructed only half a century after the Catholic church was rocked by Galileo’s astronomical discoveries. Since the Enlightenment, science has occupied an uncomfortable double identity as bringer of untold riches and uncomfortable truths. In this century, those roles have to reconciled in public policy. For Canadians, a trip to the new federal science and technology museum might not be a bad place to begin.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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