Canadian Museum of Nature Open House: Research & Collections


And… a goodbye
On October 14, the Gatineau Research Branch of the Canadian Museum of Nature opens its doors to the public.

This is the one time of year when the public are invited inside this research museum.

Dr. Jean-Marc Gagnon, Chief Scientist and Curator of Invertebrates, says part of the appeal is that Gatineau’s Pink Road Museum houses more than 14.6 million specimens and artifacts of plants, animals, fossils and minerals. It’s also Canada’s repository of frozen tissues of plants and animals in the recently opened Cryobank.

It’s intriguing to understand the level of protection required for the collection of everything from ancient dinosaur bones through to delicate plants. From humidity to heat, pests to fragrances, specimens are fragile, requiring special conservation and preservation technologies and strategies.

This annual one-day event lets us peek into these scientists’ fascinating work.

Open Labs
At the popular Fossil Workshop: meet researchers who will demonstrate their fascinating work, including 3D scanning of new fossil discoveries, and how fossils are extracted from rock. At the X-Ray lab: learn how scientists identify new minerals. At the Conservation Lab: understand how specimens are preserved and conserved. At the Heavy Wet Lab: see selections of fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Open Collections
Collections of fossils, minerals, invertebrates, mammal skeletons in the Large Skeleton Room, Botany – Canada’s vast National Herbarium, the Library and Archives (oldest book dates from the 1580s), and the National Biodiversity Cryobank are areas to discover.

The Cryobank is the museum’s “deep freeze” which preserves DNA samples of plant and animal tissue for analysis. Opened in 2018, the Cryobank’s DNA samples are frozen at -170 C, offering unique road maps of each tissue’s specific structure, crucial for biodiversity study and preservation.

October 6: Register promptly
On October 6 pre-register for free, timed tickets at: Do this early on the 6th because tickets go quickly. Although they’re open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the last reserved ticket slot is at 2:30 p.m.

Canadian Museum of Nature Research & Collections Open House, October 14, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., 1740 Chemin Pink, Gatineau.

And… Au revoir — for now
This is my last column, particularly appropriate because this open house reflects my raison d’être: the understanding, appreciation and conservation of nature plus the celebration of individuals who do such work.

In these 34 years of living at Spiritwood, I’ve discussed everything from bird migration to waste management. I’ve asked you to cherish our Pontiac as an indescribably precious, integral part of Earth’s dwindling biodiversity.

I’ve asked you to please be vigilant, reflective. We are witnessing climate change. Tornadoes. Hail. Drought. Forest fires. Reduced snow, increased ice storms, power outages. As a scientist mentioned to me yesterday, “It’s only the beginning.” Dire? Yes.

We must protect our collective future by considering our actions of today. Do we really choose to clearcut forests while speaking of species at risk? Should we install an incinerator in the Pontiac? Must we follow the capitalist mantra, “shop ’til you drop”?

How much is enough?
What do we actually do about First Nations unceded territories – particularly when considering nuclear waste landfills, mining, and our colonial-inspired concepts of property rights?

As a visual artist and writer, I chose to join CPAWS-Ottawa Valley’s DRAW (Dumoine River Artists for Wilderness) to advocate for conservation: for hope. I choose activism: to create art, write columns, articles, books. All represent positive initiatives where, for example, CPAWS-OV has been successful in protecting areas of the Dumoine and Rivière Noire.

More personally, over 34 years, Eric and I have nurtured a wildlife sanctuary at Spiritwood. This September, we’re enabling bat research with NCC biologists at Spiritwood, because our land is adjacent to Gatineau Park. It’s exciting to further the understanding of Park biodiversity with NCC scientists.

How we choose to act makes a difference.

Thank-you very much for your support over these 34 years.

Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer and visual artist. Contact her at