Hello From Ottawa: Fatal Attraction At The Canadian Museum Of Nature

Posted on: March 20, 2021 by in Uncategorized
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Hello From Ottawa: Fatal Attraction At The Canadian Museum Of Nature

My day at the McGee’s Inn started early with a breakfast at 7:30 am. I plunked myself down at one of the two-seater tables in the large bay window which gave me a nice view out onto Daly Street. A women from Montreal, Claudine, here in Ottawa on a business trip sat down to the left of me and a nice couple from Syracuse, New York, chose the table to my right.

What’s always nice about bed and breakfasts is that people actually talk to one another and soon the four of us were wrapped up in a nice conversation. We discussed Montreal, Syracuse and Toronto, and the various festivals that are held in our respective home cities. I am planning to go to Montreal at the end of June, so Claudine gave me some insider information about her home town and we decided that we would connect during my stay in Montreal.

After a delicious breakfast that featured a fruit cocktail, Eggs Florentine and homebaked croissants and muffins, I sat down for my interview with the Armstrong family who run the McGee’s Inn. They filled me in on what it is like for two couples – mother, father, son and daughter-in-law – to jointly run a bed and breakfast and they shared with me what motivated this decision in the first place.

At about 10 am I was ready for my next adventure: the Canadian Museum of Nature and its current Fatal Attraction exhibit. Ottawa is a city full of museums, and I had already seen two exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography as well as a special exhibit and an IMAX movie at the Canadian Museum of Civilization yesterday. After an exploration of contemporary photography and antiquity I was going to explore the topics of nature and, more specifically, dating in the animal world.

But before I even began my tour of the Fatal Attraction exhibit, I was awestruck by the building when I drove up to it. On one of Ottawa’s leafy residential side streets there is this enormous castle-like building that rises up in front of you and I was fascinated by the physical structure of this historic building.

Highlights of the museums collections are housed in the distinctive Victoria Memorial Museum Building which dates back to 1912. It is an example of fine early 20th century architecture, built in a style that has been described as “Scottish baronial”. It was intended to mirror the Centre Block of Canada’s Parliament Buildings and indeed both buildings share similar stonework. In the past both buildings also had similar towers, but the Museum’s tower was removed years ago since its weight was too heavy for the foundation.

Throughout its history the building has been altered significantly, but some of the original design is still visible in the Atrium. This magnificent space extends over four storeys above the ground floor and features skylights that provide natural lighting. A beautiful staircase rises and splits to reach the second level. The relatively austere Atrium highlights the two-storey tall stained-glass window in the Atrium as well as three intricate stained glass windows over nearby doors. Two big pre-historic flying reptiles, Pteranodons, are suspended from the ceiling and provide an imposing view.

The building has an interesting history: in 1916 it became the emergency headquarters for the Canadian government after a fire had destroyed the Parliament Buildings. Both the House of Commons and the Senate were located here for a time and Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier lay in state here after he had passed away. Finally in 1988 the Castle became the exclusive home of the Canadian Museum of Nature and at present a major renewal project is underway.

In my case I was here to see a special internationally travelling exhibition entitled Fatal Attraction. Presented in English, French and Dutch, this exhibition was developed by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels together with the Musee Nationale d’Histoire naturelle in Paris and Naturalis, the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden in the Netherlands.

Fatal Attraction explores the language of love in the animal world. It is an interactive, light-hearted exhibition that focuses on courtship rituals in different species, including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and insects. The science of propagation is explored in a humorous way. 100 specimens from various European natural history collections provide an up-close look at the world of animal seduction.

All sorts of mating signals are explored since the animal world features a wide range of tactics to attract a mate: from songs, calls, positions, mimics, vibrations, light codes, bright or flashy colours, scents and even sounds that we humans are unable to detect. Many interactive displays allow you to push buttons to explore different mating calls, light or sound signals for animal species living on land and in the water.

The exhibition also reveals that sometimes mating is risky business – predators might also be attracted to animals who are trying to seduce their mates. Some of them even imitate courtship signals in order to catch their prey! Human courtship is explored in the fourth and final portion of the exhibition which makes you realize that we are not all that different from our animal cousins. Fatal Attraction will stay at the Canadian Museum of Nature until September 4, 2006 when it moves to the Biodome in Montreal.

On October 20, 2006, new permanent galleries will open on the west side of the Museum: the Mammal Gallery, Bird Gallery, Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery, and Discovery Zone with programming and high-definition nature movies. There will also be a travelling exhibition on Einstein. The east side of the Museum will then close to the public until 2009 for the installation of new galleries. Check out nature.ca to learn more about the Canadian Museum of Nature, its collections, special Web sites, and its Renewal project.

I had fun at the Canadian Museum of Nature exploring the world of animal seduction, and my next item on the agenda was an expoloration of Canadian nature: Gatineau Park, Ottawa’s nature playground…

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