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Annual cleaning week tradition continues a little differently this year

Canadian Museum of Nature

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January, 2013

January 12, 2022

Each year, the Canadian Museum of Nature closes its doors to the public for five days in January to thoroughly clean the galleries, delicately dust the fossils and other specimens, and undertake specific maintenance projects. Staff refer to this annual event as “the Blitz”. The work ranges from high-dusting in the galleries, de-oiling a blue whale skeleton, carefully vacuuming furry animal mounts, venturing into dark nooks of exhibits to fish out gum and other brazenly-deposited undesirable items, and more. Soft brushes, backpack vacuums and even pool noodles are some of the tools that prove extremely handy during this cleaning mission.

Over the years, Blitz activities have been captured in special photo shoots, video, media interviews and blog posts. The palaeontology staff take care of cleaning the dinosaur skeletons and other fossils, as described in this “Dusting the Dinos” blog post. Museum conservators and their Collections colleagues tackle the considerable (and endless) chore of de-greasing the 19-metre blue whale, which continues to seep oil from its bones. The cleaning and maintenance of the Earth Gallery, which boasts at least 1,000 dazzling rocks and minerals safeguarded in special “microclimate” display cases, is explained in “A Mineral Cleaning Blitz”. The job of coordinating a team to clean a century-old, 18,700-square-metre castle includes savvy tips which can be employed in smaller-scale projects as well. 

© Canadian Museum of Nature

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In 2014, longtime broadcaster Max Keeping lent a hand in vacuuming the polar bear in the Mammal Gallery.

In the past (long before COVID), VIPs such as Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, former CTV host Max Keeping, and former Liberal cabinet minister Catherine McKenna even lent a hand in cleaning some of the displays. 

Given the continued pandemic, the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus, and new Ontario provincial restrictions regarding indoor gatherings, the museum’s 2022 annual cleaning and maintenance week is unfortunately not much of a “Blitz” this time. High-dusting, fossil-cleaning and whale-degreasing will proceed. The polar bear, for example, might not get its full grooming this time ‘round, but conservation measures are in place, and the exhibits will be ready for the return of visitors in the near future.