Ottawa

Museums reopen with masks, sanitizers and no interactive displays

The extensive exhibitions at the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum are ready to be seen again — but not touched — as the two major cultural institutions reopened Wednesday after months of being shuttered.

Wednesday was opening day at history, war museum

Hand sanitizers now greet visitors at the entrance to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. The museum reopened Wednesday for the first time in months. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The extensive exhibitions at the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum are ready to be seen again — but not touched — as the two major cultural institutions reopened Wednesday after months of being shuttered.

The new normal includes hand sanitizing stations and physical distancing signs that greet visitors at the museums' entrances and pop up throughout the exhibition spaces. 

Ticket takers must now stand behind plexiglass shields, while janitorial staff push cleaning supplies through the buildings in full view of museum goers.

Youngsters and their parents have to wear masks as they wander through the sights and sounds of Canadian history. 

Kids wear masks as they take in the sights at the Canadian War Museum on Wednesday. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Interactive displays, buttons and levers that once allowed people to engage with the exhibitions have been reconfigured or covered up with panels. 

Explanatory videos are no longer hand-activated but run automatically in loops with subtitles.

There won't be large crowds in the Canadian Museum of History's Grand Hall, as physical distancing rules mean only 50 visitors are allowed into the museum each half hour. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

"For health and security reasons, we don't want people touching," said Chantal Amyot, acting director at the Canadian Museum of History.

"We're looking at technologies that will work with gestures [without touching], but we're just in the process of doing that now."

WATCH | The new-look national museums:

The Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum are reopening, but with fewer opportunities to interact with exhibits. 0:52

The Canadian Museum of History operates the Canadian War Museum, and both organizations are adhering to the same safety protocols.

Both also say there was a high demand for opening day tickets, but COVID-19 restrictions meant the galleries seemed almost unpopulated.

Staggered admission times allowed only 50 people to enter each half hour, with a maximum of 250 patrons at once, in order to make it easy for people to physically distance from one another.

"This ensures that there's a constant flow and we're not creating bottlenecks of visitors at any given time," said Caroline Dromaguet, acting director general of the Canadian War Museum.

This interactive quiz at the Canadian War Museum has been reconfigured so that museum visitors don't have to touch it. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Some spaces, like the Canadian Children's Museum and the CINÉ+ theatre at the Canadian Museum of History and the Memorial Hall at the Canadian War Museum, remain closed.

Both museums will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

About the Author

Sandra Abma

Journalist

Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at sandra.abma@cbc.ca.

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