With summer break right around the corner, parents are already thinking about ways to keep kids entertained. Museums across Ottawa are ready to welcome them back with interactive in-person programming. Each of the 11 venues across the Ottawa Museum Network offers unique programming, but they all agree on one thing — hybrid programming is here to stay. “People love it,” said Robin Etherington, outgoing executive director of the Bytown Museum. “The exciting challenge is making it work well for the community.” For those uncomfortable with returning to in-person or indoor social gatherings, there are also plenty of activities to engage and educate children including self-guided tours, outdoor markets, virtual museum walkthroughs and online workshops.
“Students are learning about science, technology, engineering and math online, and for some, it’s not going to resonate,” said Elaine Eagan, programming and visitor experience manager Watson’s Mill. During the museum’s guided tours, people of all ages can watch stone-ground flour go from farm to table, getting them up close as they learn how their schoolwork resonates in real life, Eagen explained.
Housed in the region’s oldest stone building, the Bytown Museum offers tours exploring the development of the eight locks leading up the Rideau Canal — a monumental engineering and architectural feat, given its 200-year-old technology. The Bytown Museum hopes to reopen in the summer. For now, they offer a range of activities like downloadable walking tours of the city and virtual lectures showcasing Ottawa’s diverse communities.
Cumberland Heritage Village Museum
Venture outside the downtown core to learn about rural life as it looked and felt a century ago. This recreated village environment features a petting zoo, fire hall, general store and train station, as well as interactive exhibits demonstrating innovations in dairy farming, printing and blacksmithing. This spring, families can pick up herb garden kits and climb aboard a real firetruck on (International Firefighter’s Day).
The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum
Built in the 1960s as a centre for preparedness against nuclear attacks, the Diefenbunker now boasts the world’s largest escape room suitable for all ages. Visitors can learn about Canada’s role in the Cold War while trying to beat one of two missions: Covert Ops, which takes up an entire floor of the bunker, and recently launched Radioactive.
Families can step into the past at the Goulbourn Museum, which features interactive exhibits that bring stories of Ottawa’s oldest military settlements to life. Once reopened, kids can sign up for afternoon craft workshops or dress up in 19th century fashion and learn how to barter while filling their shopping baskets with old-fashioned goods.
Osgoode Township Museum
With an extensive heritage garden, the Osgoode Township Museum will offer small group tours, markets and workshops teaching kids about local flora and settler gardening history. Families can explore the main garden — during summer, it’s brimming with fruits and vegetables, and open for community use.
Vanier Muséopark hosts French and bilingual outdoor summer camps for kids between the ages of 5 and 10. The camps are known for their focus on shared knowledge between Inuit and First Nations people and early settlers. The venue is also home to Ottawa’s Sugar Festival where visitors can try sweet treats. Though the festival will be online this year, running from April 1-9, a permanent exhibit about the history of maple tapping will be unveiled in their newly renovated Sugar Shack this fall.
Located on the bank of the Rideau Canal, Watson’s Mill is a museum housed in one of Canada’s few water-powered flour mills. See first-hand how flour was produced and learn about the agricultural history of Manotick while taking part in family-friendly activities like high tea, plant and artisan markets and outdoor concerts. Ottawa museums are ready to burst with life after months of closures.
From heritage sites conveniently located in the downtown core to sprawling estates just outside the city, each museum in the Ottawa Museum Network offers families a unique opportunity to make learning fun while immersing themselves in the region’s history and nature. “It makes my heart sing when I hear young people using the museum the way they want to use it,” said Etherington. “The whole idea of community museums is that they belong to the community.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Ottawa Museum Network. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.