“A Capital Experience” at the Bytown Museum

The Bytown Museum is located at the mouth of the Rideau Canal, just below the Parliament buildings, in the rustic, pine-scented Commissariat of Lt. Col. John By, Royal Engineers. Built in 1827, the commissariat is Ottawa’s oldest stone building. It houses a permanent exhibit of life in the early years of Ottawa.

Currently on display, “A Capital Experience”, is an innovative exhibit that celebrates Ottawa’s diverse heritage. Too often in Canadian historical museums, the focus is on the history of the British settlers in Canada, which ignores the small but significant minority of immigrants from other countries who helped to establish Canada as it is today. “A Capital Experience” rectifies this glaring omission by concentrating on many of the various groups of people who emigrated to Canada, including the Italians, Irish, Ukrainians, Chinese, and many others.

Representatives of each ethnic group prepared an exhibit of artifacts, costumes, and photographs. Pat Adamo was responsible for putting together the Italian exhibit. She composed an entertaining and informative synopsis of the Italian presence in Ottawa, from our initial arrival in the early 1800’s to the present population of 25,000 Italian-Canadians in the Ottawa area. Included in the display were Carabiniere uniforms, a traditional costume from the Cosenza region, and many photographs dating from the early 19th century.

My only complaint is for the head curator of “A Capital Experience”. I felt that this exhibit would have benefited from a written summary or catalogue to bring everything together, and to provide a general synopsis of immigrant life in Ottawa. This exhibit closes after the Thanksgiving weekend.