Photo taken by Lee Narraway / Copyright Students on Ice
Frigid temperatures and Arctic cold fronts are the norm in Ottawa, yet most likely don’t realize the importance of our involvement in the polar region. The Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN) is a Centre of Excellence for Arctic knowledge and exploration and this year, they’ve partnered with Students on Ice (SOI) to present Explore Our Arctic Here, a 9-panel photo exhibit at Confederation Park during Winterlude.
“We wanted to highlight a lot of the work we’re doing with the Arctic,” explained John Swettenham, director of marketing and media relations at the museum. “We have researchers up there every summer mapping out the flora and flauna and our natural history collection is probably the most significant Arctic collection there is.”
The partnership with SOI is nothing new — in fact, the museum has worked with the award-winning organization for over a decade, providing scientific advisors to SOI’s annual educational expeditions to the Arctic. Additionally, CMN is working with a number of other partners on the Arctic including the World Wildlife Fund, Canadian Wildlife Service and Parks Canada.
“At the centre of this cooperation is a sailing ship called the Arctic Tern 1, which is owned by SOI,” added Swettenham. “It has a heavy metal hull that allows it to get in places a larger ice breaker ship couldn’t go. We also had a Canadian Wildlife Researcher on board taking photos of bird life and tracking it.”
On one of the photo panels, a biologist is seen on the deck of the Arctic Tern 1, filming sea ice for the WWF’s expedition, Sailing to Siku. Other panels show a botantist with CMN teaching a student about Arctic plants and another shows SOI students gazing at huge icebergs.
“All of the photos show the work between research and education in the Arctic,” said Swettenham. “There’s a common thread in the whole story of everyone working together — there isn’t any photo of one group working independently. We wanted to demonstrate the collaborative working relationship we have with all of our partners.”
The CMN is hoping the photo exhibit will draw visitors down the street and into its building to warm up and view a 10-minute film called Anchors Aweigh in the Arctic. The video allows viewers to virtually sail through sea ice while on board the Arctic Tern 1 and learn about the five-year mission in the Arctic.
“We’ve mapped out our location on one of the photo exhibit panels to guide people down the 12 blocks to our physical location,” said Swettenham. “We’re also doing a text promotion that includes really fun things on the fly and even a discount on admission to the museum.”
The Arctic theme won’t end with winter. The museum is hosting an unique festival called Edible Arctic from April 3-7, showcasing Arctic traditions, science and culinary treats.
“There are so many exciting stories to tell about what’s happening right now in the Arctic” said Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the CMN. “Together, with partners, we’re working to further our knowledge record of the flora, fauna and changing climate up North. And since not all Canadians have an opportunity to go to the Arctic, we’re bringing it to you in this exhibit.”
For more information, visit www.nature.ca for more information.