Museum of Nature brings gem of a show to Constitution Square with minerals exhibit

Lunch-hour vernissage and ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrates month-long display opening in downtown Ottawa office complex

Constitution Square was the place to be Tuesday for those about to rock, and for those who just like rocks.

The Canadian Museum of Nature has brought a pop-up version of its dazzling Minerals Exhibit to the main lobby of the three-tower downtown Ottawa office and retail complex where some 3,000 people come to work within the 1.1 million square feet of space.

The place was filled with lively music performed by members of the River City Junction trio. The musicians are also instructors with the Canada Music Academy, which recently opened a new branch in Ottawa.

In keeping with the exhibit's theme, the artists played rock music, including the Rolling Stones and Elvis’s Jailhouse Rock. Spectators could also win prizes, such as passes to the museum and a Constitution Square gift card, by sharing the names of their favourite rock songs via social media. 

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From left, musicians Jason Fryer, Caroline Addison and Tom Joanisse perform Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, at the official opening of the Canadian Museum of Nature's new pop-up exhibit on minerals, now on display at Constitution Square. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The month-long exhibit features more than 90 minerals that are clustered into themes explaining where the minerals come from, their variations in form and function, the science of studying them and their common or unusual uses. Their sparkling and shiny beauty and bright colours drew many people to spend part of their lunch hour marvelling at the collection.

“We’re really hoping that the Minerals Exhibit is going to surprise, inform and inspire those who come through and see it,” the museum’s president and CEO, Meg Beckel, told the crowd during her brief remarks.

She was joined at the noon-hour vernissage by John Swettenham, the museum’s director of marketing, media and external relations, and by Paula Piilonen, a research scientist in the Mineral Sciences section at the museum. She's also the first female president of the Mineralogical Association of Canada.

All rockhounds and those who just appreciate nature's beauty in agates were encouraged to approach Piilonen and pick her brain about the exhibit. “If you have questions about the minerals please ask Paula, don’t ask me. I know more about the chocolate version than the real version,” joked Beckel, referring to the popular and delicious geode cake pops that were served to everyone at the event.

“I have no doubt that after a couple of visits here you will be inspired to come visit the castle on McLeod, where we do have 1,000 specimens on display,” said Beckel, referring to the museum's 240 McLeod St. building, which truly does resemble a beautiful and historic castle.

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From left, Canadian Museum of Nature senior research scientist Paula Piilonen with the museum's president and CEO, Meg Beckel, at the official opening of the museum's pop-up exhibit on minerals at the Constitution Square downtown office complex. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Special guests included Mayor Jim Watson, who did the honours of cutting the ribbon to mark the official exhibit opening. “We’re really blessed in Ottawa to have some wonderful national museums and attractions,” he told the crowd. “Sometimes, we take for granted that they’re in our backyard. Visitors from around the world come and tour these museums and often I’ll meet residents here who have lived here 20, 30 years, or all their lives, and they haven’t been to see the museums.”

Watson briefly mentioned his connection to Beckel, through her late father, William Beckel. He was president of Carleton University from 1979 to 1989, back when Watson was a student there.

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From left, John Swettenham, Mayor Jim Watson, Peter Rychlik, general manager at Canderel, Meg Beckel and Martine Thériault, vice president of property management for Canderel, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Canadian Museum of Nature's pop-up exhibit on minerals, on display in the main lobby of Constitution Square until February 22nd. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The pop up exhibit represents a partnership between the museum and Canderel, a national real estate development, investment and management company. Constitution Square on Albert Street was bought in 2017 by Canderel, with Canstone and majority owner Greystone, in a record-breaking deal worth $480 million.

“Canderel is collaborating with world-class museums and galleries to host satellite exhibits at our signature properties,” Nicola Powadiuk, director of exhibitions for Canderel, said during her welcome remarks.

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From left, John Swettenham from the Canadian Museum of Nature with Nicola Powadiuk  from Canderel at the opening of the museum's new pop-up exhibit on minerals, at Constitution Square. Photo by Caroline Phillips

- caroline@obj.ca