Two national museums in Ottawa-Gatineau are reopening their doors this week, hoping some free outdoor programming will help attract families back to their grounds amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Both the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau reopened to the public Thursday following four months of closures stemming from the pandemic.
The two national museums will be open from Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., for the rest of the summer.
To help lure back the crowds, both museums are offering free admission.
Most indoor spaces will remain temporarily closed, though the history museum’s Grand Hall and the war museum’s LeBreton Gallery will be open for guided tours.
Each museum will allow up to 50 people inside per two-hour block. Tours must be booked online in advance.
Guests will find additional signage and sanitation stations throughout the buildings’ interior and wearing a mask will be mandatory inside.
The newly-reopened war museum has proven popular already in its first weekend, with every tour block fully booked from Thursday to Sunday.
“We’re very excited to see everyone come back,” says Caroline Dromaguet, acting director general at the Canadian War Museum.
Due to restrictions on how many people can gather indoors during the pandemic, the national museums are putting a renewed focus on outdoor activities.
The Canadian Museum of History will be providing paid picnics on its lawn, running scavenger hunts throughout the grounds, hosting Indigenous dance performances under a tent and offering canoe tours of the Ottawa River.
The Canadian War Museum will be pulling some of the classic military vehicles out of its LeBreton Gallery and taking them for a spin at the back of the bunker-like building.
Dromaguet says these outdoor offerings are helping to draw families back to the museum amid pent-up demand from the pandemic.
“We’ve had lots of families come in with their little kids who are really, really anxious to see these vehicles in motion,” she says.
Dromaguet says the summer programming is a “first phase” of reopening, with both the history and war museums planning an expansion of their offerings come September.