Canadian Museum of Nature

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The Canadian Museum of Nature is a natural history museum in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Its collections, which were started by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1856, include all aspects of the intersection of human society and nature, from gardening to gene-splicing.

Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa,  Canada
Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada

The building, known as the Victoria Memorial Museum Building, was built in former farm fields known as Appin Place, the estate of the Scottish-born merchant, William Stewart. The neighbourhood became known as Stewarton and residential development started in the area during the 1870s. The government purchased the land in 1905 hoping to develop the site as a sort of 'end piece' to complement the stone structure of the Canadian Parliament Buildings at the opposite end of Metcalfe Street, on Parliament Hill.

Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa,  Canada
Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada

This massive stone structure is an excellent example of early 20th-century architecture in Ottawa, and was built for $1,250,000 by architect David Ewart who is responsible for many similar structures around the city. The construction of the building involved the importing of 300 skilled stonemasons from Scotland. The architectural style is sometimes described as Scottish baronial. Ewart was sent to Britain to study the architecture of Hampton Court and Windsor Castle, which greatly influenced his design of this building.

Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa,  Canada
Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada

Unfortunately, because of the presence of unstable Leda clay in the geology of the site, a tall tower that was situated at the front of the building had to be taken down in 1915 due to settling and the concern that the foundation could not support the weight. The unstable site forced some workers to stop working, as shifting foundations in the basement shot bricks and stones out from the walls, hitting some construction workers.

Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa,  Canada
Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada

In 1968, the National Museum that occupied the building was split into the National Museum of Natural Sciences (eventually renamed the Canadian Museum of Nature) and the National Museum of Man (renamed the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and later the Canadian Museum of History), although both entities continued to share the same edifice. In 1989, the then Canadian Museum of Civilization moved to a new location in Gatineau, Quebec, and the Canadian Museum of Nature was able to occupy the entire Victoria Memorial Museum Building.

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