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Exploring the Weird and Unusual: Canadian Museum of Nature exhibitions and programs in 2019

©AMNH 2014


Tupandactylus, a flying reptile. 

Ottawa, Feb. 20, 2019 – The Canadian Museum of Nature’s upcoming lineup of exhibitions will soar to new heights this year. Crowning it all will be the blockbuster show from the American Museum of Natural History: Pterosaur: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs which reveals the weird and terrifying flying creatures that dominated the prehistoric skies.

“With visitor engagement and experience always top of mind for us, we continue to explore different themes that intrigue and incite curiosity about the natural world, past and present,ʺ says Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. “Nature is wonderful and weird, and you’ll get insight into that with Pterosaur as well as the special exhibition later this year about the human microbiome.”

The new season is already off to a great start with the popularity of Survival of the Slowest, which opened at the end of December 2018. This exhibition, produced in collaboration with Little Ray’s Nature Centres, showcases live animals with counter-intuitive adaptations, such as the benefit of being slow. Visitors can view a two-toed sloth in her habitat, and enjoy live-animal presentations where the sloth, or other animals, such as a tortoise, ball python, barn owl or more, are brought out for public view and education.

For the summer tourist season, Pterosaur will rule from June 15 to September 2 (Labour Day).  Journey through the Mesozoic (252 to 66 million years ago) with the largest flying animals that ever lived. These fierce, fascinating reptiles were evolutionary all-stars and the first vertebrates to fly under their own power. Learn more about them through fossils, impressive models, and unique interactives.

Two people look at pterosaur fossils on a wall.

Crest Gallery
A gallery display illustrates the incredible variety of pterosaur crests—from a dagger-shaped blade that juts from the head to a giant, sail-like extension. D. Finnin © AMNH

People look at a large diorama with flying pterosaurs.

Diorama - Two Thalassodromeus pterosaurs with impressive 14-foot wingspans swoop down to catch Rhacolepis fish in their toothless jaws in this large diorama showing a detailed re-creation of a dramatic Cretaceous seascape. R. Mickens © AMNH

A large model of a pterosaur hangs over visitors.

Quetzalcoatlus Model - A full-size model of the 10 m wingspan Quetzalcoatlus northropi—the largest pterosaur known to date—hangs above visitors. D. Finnin © AMNH

A boy looks at a large video screen showing a pterosaur.

Fly Like a Pterosaur Exhibit - Visitors can “pilot” a flying pterosaur over a prehistoric landscape in a whole-body interactive exhibit that uses motion-sensing technology. D. Finnin © AMNH

The Museum’s Northern Voices Gallery—a unique space within the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery dedicated to community-driven exhibitions from the North—will host Qilalukkat: Belugas and Inuvialuit as of mid-October. Myrna Pokiak from Tuktoyaktuk shares her family’s story about the tradition of harvesting beluga whales in the Inuvialuit region (western Canadian Arctic). Through stories, family photos, art, videos and reflections, visitors learn how the annual harvest is still a vital part of Inuvialuit life. Qilalukkat, which will be on view for two years, will replace the current exhibition, Inuinnauyugut: We Are Inuinnait, closing September 2.

At the end of the year, the Museum will present another special exhibition from the American Museum of Natural History which will take visitors through the amazing ecosystem that is the human microbiome. Learn about microbes and why they matter to your health in an engaging format that’s easily digestible. It runs from December 20, 2019 to March 29, 2020.

The Museum’s popular permanent gallery on water (opened in 2010) will undergo the first phase of a refresh. In the wing (the section behind the 19-metre Blue Whale skeleton), new interpretive exhibits will explore the themes of ocean plastics and climate change. This first phase of the Water Gallery renewal will be completed by May 17.

Other dates to note regarding exhibitions and programs:

  • Nature Nocturne: Season 7 launched in November 2018. Each event (on the last Friday of the month) features special themes, hands-on activities, DJ music, food and drink, and the opportunity to explore galleries after hours. 2019 themes are Tropical Escape (February), Unicorn or Narwhal? (March 29), The Deep Blue (April 26), Flower Power (May 31), and June 28 (Super Fly). The Museum is pleased to have TD on board again as the presenting sponsor, JUMP! 106.9 as the exclusive radio sponsor, and Beau’s Brewery as the official beer sponsor.
  • Ikebana: April 11 – 14. This annual exhibition depicting the ancient Japanese art of floral design is back for its 35th year. Enjoy unique, lovely botanical creations by the Ottawa Centennial Chapter of Ikebana International.
  • Courage and Passion: Canadian Women in Natural Sciences – closes March 31. This exhibition highlights the stories and contributions of Canadian scientific trailblazers, leaders and unsung heroes, dating back to the 1700s.
  • Butterflies in Flight: This highly popular exhibition of beautiful, live, tropical butterflies is extended until April 28, 2019.
  • Open House: Saturday, October 19. This annual event, where the doors of the Museum’s behind-the-scenes national natural history collections open to the public, is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Visitors can view some of the 14.6 million specimens (fossils, minerals, plants, vertebrates, invertebrates and more) housed at an impressive campus in Gatineau, and meet the museum’s scientists and curators who know all about these amazing treasures.
  • Ignite: This free public event—held annually in November—provides insight into the Canadian Museum of Nature’s research and collections through a series of snappy, five-minute presentations by our scientists and curators.
  • Nature Trade: This popular activity on Thursday evenings and weekends continues in our Nature Live Gallery. Children and adults can bring in natural-history treasures for identification, to learn more about them and to start their own collection by trading for other found items.
  • Sleepovers: This “bucket-list” experience that debuted in fall 2018 lets families and groups stay overnight in the Museum, complete with a flashlight tour, scavenger hunt, 3D movie, late-night snack, breakfast and a chance to sleep in the galleries! 
  • The Nature Inspiration Awards, now in its sixth year, recognize exceptional individuals and organizations whose leadership and innovation inspire Canadians to connect with nature and help save the planet. Nominations will be accepted in March and April, with the award recipients announced on November 13. Visit for details.

The Museum is located at 240 McLeod Street, Ottawa. Hours until June 1 are Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday until 8 p.m. (Also open Mondays during holiday periods). From June 1 to Labour Day, the Museum is open seven days a week. A surcharge applies for entry to the special exhibitions: Butterflies in Flight, Survival of the Slowest, Pterosaur, and the microbiome exhibition.                                                                                                                     

For details, including fees and hours, visit Follow the Museum on Twitter (@museumofnature), Instagram (museumofnature) and Facebook.

About the Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada's national museum of natural history and natural sciences. The museum provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature's past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a 14.6-million-specimen collection, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site,

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