Mission and Mandate
Saving the World with Evidence, Knowledge and Inspiration
Imagine a world where nature, and our future, are no longer threatened. A future where knowledge inspires people to make and support informed, realistic decisions that save the world.
It cannot happen without Canada. Given its size, geopolitical position and scientific wealth, Canada's voice is disproportionately strong and Canadians uniquely empowered.
As Canada's national museum of natural history and natural sciences, the role of the Canadian Museum of Nature is foundational to their empowerment and action.
"The purpose of the Canadian Museum of Nature is to increase throughout Canada and internationally, interest in, knowledge of and appreciation and respect for the natural world by establishing, maintaining and developing for research and posterity a collection of natural history objects, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, and by demonstrating the natural world, the knowledge derived from it and the understanding it represents."
– from the Museums Act, section 11 (1990, c. 3)
The Canadian Museum of Nature plays a critical role in saving the world by undertaking three sets of activities that link scientific exploration with public discovery, understanding and action:
- Evidence—Exploring to collect, preserve and manage physical evidence of the flora, fauna and geology of Canada and the world across geography and over time. As such, the museum "saves" the world for scientific study and public observation.
- Knowledge—Undertaking original research or collaborating with other scientific institutions in Canada and abroad to develop new scientific knowledge while at the same time providing physical or digital access to the museum's national natural-history collections.
- Inspiration—Building on the foundation of its extensive collections and research, and working with internationally renowned partners, the museum uses its exhibitions, programming, digital outreach and internationally travelling exhibitions program to present scientific evidence and knowledge. These inspire new reflections and encourage actions that will "save the world" for future generations.
Evidence as the Foundation
The 14.6 million specimens in the museum's national natural-history collections provide an inventory of what is known to exist in the natural world. Each new discovery is named and classified to the species or genus level.
When the overall collection is examined against parameters such as the time period or the location where specimens were found, the causes of change and evolution may be determined. As the world enters the "Anthropocene Epoch", this knowledge can be used to shape individual and collective decisions and actions to ensure that human progress proceeds in harmony with the natural world.
With the exception of specimens on public display or scientific loan, the national natural-history collections are located at the 76-hectare Natural Heritage Campus in Gatineau, Québec. This research and collections facility also houses laboratories and offices for the museum's botanists, zoologists, mineralogists and palaeontologists, as well as for research associates, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and visiting scientists.
Also located at our facility is the Secretariat of the Canadian Committee for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)—the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
Knowledge Derived from Evidence
Two research centres of excellence are located at our research and collections facility:
These centres play an important role in providing scientific evidence and knowledge to help understand and manage issues such as changes to biodiversity and the impacts of climate change. The centres also play a key role in fulfilling the museum's mandate to provide scientific training to the next generation of collections-based researchers.
Museum scientists and research associates publish approximately 90 peer-reviewed research papers annually, and museum data are also referenced in many research studies published globally.
Museum scientists are actively involved in national and global scientific bodies such as the
- International Mineralogical Association
- Arctic Council's Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) group
- Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
- Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC)
- Coleopterists Society
- Global Taxonomy Initiative
- Society for Vertebrate Palaeontology
- Northern Scientific Training Program.
Online Scientific Sharing
Increasingly, scientists and the public access the museum's collection digitally. Data on more 850 000 lots of priority scientific specimens have been digitized, representing approximately 25% of the museum's collections.
The museum is a leading Canadian partner in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world's governments to provide open-access to data about all types of life on Earth to anyone, anywhere.
Through GBIF and other online networks, there are over 940 million downloads annually of museum specimen data worldwide.
Inspiration by Sharing Knowledge through Engagement
To build awareness, discussion and action for our future, the museum creates experiences to share evidence and knowledge of our natural world by engaging the public through a number of channels and initiatives.
On-Site Public Sharing
It is the museum's promise that its visitors will be inspired by natural history and current science to explore our natural future. Through the lens of its national natural-history collections, scientific research, and internationally recognized partnerships, the museum showcases current scientific knowledge and contemporary understanding of the natural world.
The Victoria Memorial Museum building in Ottawa is the public engagement venue of the Canadian Museum of Nature. It welcomes about 500 000 visitors each year—with tourists accounting for nearly 40% of attendance—and is ranked one of the top ten places to visit in Ottawa with a 95% visitor-satisfaction rating.
The museum's galleries and exhibitions serve as the anchor for our public engagement:
- Fossil Gallery—Canada's first dinosaur gallery has close to 200 fossils that tell the story of extinction and the rise of mammals
- Mammal Gallery—Iconic mammals and ecosystems of Canada tell the story of adaptation through beautiful life-sized diorama habitats (many by Canadian wildlife artist Clarence Tillenius)
- Water Gallery—Features a breathtaking display of the diversity of life in aquatic ecosystems (including a 19 metre-long blue-whale skeleton), this gallery tells the story of the important role of oceans and inland waterways to our planet's future
- Earth Gallery—A world-class collection of minerals and rocks that showcase the geological foundations of our planet, with highlights including giant crystals, gems, meteorites and a "limestone" cave
- Nature Live—A collection of live insects including cockroaches, beetles, spiders, bees, ants and other invertebrates that illustrates the incredible diversity of life on our planet
- Bird Gallery—The largest display of Canadian birds in the world with close to 500 real, mounted birds, including the extinct Passenger Pigeon
- Canada Goose Arctic Gallery—Showcases the surprising biodiversity, beauty and variability of this unique and fragile region of our planet
- Special exhibitions and experiences—Include temporary exhibitions from Canada and around the world, a 3D theatre, dedicated school and family-enrichment areas, and a solarium/butterfly house.
Programming at the museum is designed to engage different audience segments in different ways. Examples include
- in-gallery programming delivered by science-interpretation experts that complements gallery visits, such as presentations on fossil preparation and hands-on experiences with specimens on weekends
- school programming and workshops during weekdays
- nature-themed birthday party events for children
- themed café and boutique offerings that complement the museum experience.
The museum continues to explore new programming to engage diverse audiences and has created a varied program of stimulating after-hour events to engage our audiences both socially and intellectually, including
- TD Nature Nocturne: A vibrant atmosphere for millennials that combines the viewing of galleries with special activities and entertainment, dancing, food and drinks
- Nature Tastes: Museum scientists team up with experts in the craft to explain the natural science behind the preparation that gives particular drinks (such as wine, beer, sake, whiskey) their unique qualities
- Nature Ideas: Public presentations and interactive engagements with museum experts on diverse topics of interest
- Nature Sleepovers: A program for groups of children (e.g., scouts and community groups) and families where participants sleep in museum galleries overnight and engage in various activities.
Off-Site Sharing across Canada and around the World
The public engagement footprint of the Canadian Museum of Nature extends far beyond the museum site in Ottawa, reaching an additional 1 million visitors each year.
Travelling exhibitions made independently or in partnership with other leading museums and institutions (e.g., Creatures of Light with the American Museum of Natural History, Arctic Voices with Science North, and the Arctic Alive Giant Floor Map with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society) extend the museum's reach across Canada and around the world, engaging millions more.
Social-Media Sharing and the Museum's Website
The museum's social-media reach exceeds 80 million people, while digital reach on its website, nature.ca, and other associated platforms extends access to people everywhere through phone, tablet and desktop computer.
A Vital Role
Since the museum's founding in 1856, our purpose has not changed but the world around us has. In this century, nature is more challenged and more important than ever before. Responsible stewardship of nature is essential to our planet's future.
We believe this new world demands a more vital role for the Canadian Museum of Nature. We are responding by taking a more engaging role on the national and global stage with extraordinary collections, detailed research programs, expert narratives, dynamic personal experiences and powerful dialogue and debate.
Our staff, volunteers and partners are combining forces to save the world for future generations with evidence, knowledge and inspiration.
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