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Canadian Museum of History

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Date Founded: 

LogoFirst established as the Museum of Man in 1968, the Canadian Museum of History (1989) is Canada’s largest and most popular cultural institution, attracting over 1.3 million visitors per year. According to museum literature, the museum’s mission is “to increase, throughout Canada and internationally, interest in, knowledge and critical understanding of, and appreciation and respect for, human cultural achievements and human behaviour, by establishing, maintaining and developing for research and posterity a collection of objects of historical or cultural interest, with special, but not exclusive, reference to Canada, and by demonstrating those achievements and behaviour, the knowledge derived from them and the understanding they represent.”

Physical Description: 

The Curatorial Building. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)The museum is one of the most unusual and original buildings in the country, and arguably, the world. Designed by the Indigenous architect Douglas J. Cardinal, it is famous for its striking curved lines, domes roofs, and monumental size. The museum’s exterior is faced with 36,000 square metres of Tyndall limestone from Manitoba, and its roof is made of nearly 11,000 square metres (90 tons) of Canadian copper – more copper than on any other building in the world. Not surprisingly, the museum buildings are considered a major attraction in their own right.

The museum contains over 100,000 square metres (1,076,400 square feet) of floor space in two distinct pavilions -- the Museum Building and the Curatorial Building. While the Curatorial Building houses the vast collections (over 5,000,000 artifacts), the Museum Building features the exhibitions – both permanent and temporary -- on a wide array of themes.

The Museum Building. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)The exhibition space spans all four levels of the Museum Building:

Level 1:
--The Grand Hall. This awesome, elliptical gallery is one of the museum’s most popular attractions. With its curved glass wall measuring 112 X 15 metres (365 X 50 feet) and its superb view of Parliament Hill, it is the architectural centrepiece of the facility. It provides a splendid environment for 43 enormous totem poles (the largest indoor collection in the world) that sore high overhead the entire length of the gallery. Six houses within the hall present various Indigenous communities of coastal British Columbia.
--The First People’s Hall, ten years in the making, presents an impressive display of over 2,000 artifacts and works of art, as well as audiovisual material, pertaining to the country’s Indigenous peoples from the earliest times to the present day.
Level 2:
--The Canadian Postal Museum (see description elsewhere on this website).
--The Canadian Children’s Museum (see description elsewhere on this website).
--IMAX Theatre.

Level 1. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)Level 3:
--The Canada Hall. This hall, which includes a 17-metre (56-foot) domed ceiling, features splendid, life-sized displays of life across Canada. The hall, which covers 1,000 years of Canadian history, is divided into two sections, one featuring Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario from 1000 to 1885, the other featuring Western and Northern Canada from 1885 to the present. Reconstructed scenes include: a Norse landing in Newfoundland (c.1000 A.D.); the interior of a Basque ship and whaling post (c.1560); an Acadian exhibit; and a farmhouse, inn, and public square in New France (1600 to 1760); a Voyageur camp; a lumber shanty; a Métis campsite, a British military headquarters; a shipyard; a typical main street in 19th century Ontario; a turn-of-the-century railway station; a Ukrainian Church from Alberta; an oil derrick; and a West Coast fisheries scene, to name only a few.
Levels 1, 2, and 4:
--Temporary exhibition halls (check listings for current exhibitions).
Museum grounds:
--Japanese Zen Garden; Canada Garden.
Other attractions / services (shared with the Canadian Children’s Museum and the Canadian Postal Museum): Dramamuse, the museum’s resident theatre company (actors enact the lives of people from Canada’s past); dining facilities, boutiques, visitor services, handicapped services, indoor paid parking, and others.


Champlain's astrolabe. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)Over 5,000, 000 artifacts.
These include objects representing over 140 North American Indigenous cultures; many unique cultural artifacts, including Champlain’s astrolabe (which, at $250,000, is one of the museum’s most expensive objects) and four different desks said to have once belonged to Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister; and over 3 million archaeological specimens. The museum also has a photographic collection of over 300,000 negatives and transparencies, and a research library of over 100,000 volumes.

Special Activities: 

Temporary exhibitions; receptions; IMAX theatre; special programming, etc. (please consult the museum website for more information).

Business Hours: 

[]May 1 to June 30:
7 days a week, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Thursdays to 9:00 p.m.
July 1 to September 5:
7 days a week, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays until 9:00 p.m.
September 6 to October 10:
7 days a week, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Thursdays until 9:00 p.m.
October 11 to April 30:
Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Thursdays until 9:00 p.m.


Please consult the museum website, below, for details.



Canadian Museum of History, 100 Laurier Street, P.O. Box 3100, Station B, Gatineau, QC J8X 4H2.

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(819) 776-7000; Toll free 1 (800) 555-5621