The Canadian War Museum, Canada's national museum of military history, was opened in 2005 on the south bank of the Ottawa River. The museum, originally begun in 1880 as an informal collection of military artifacts, was moved in 1967 to an archives building on Sussex Drive with most of the collection stored off-site. In 2001, the Federal Government announced the decision to fund the construction of a state-of-the art new building to be situated in the LeBreton Flats area of downtown Ottawa. Designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects in a joint venture with Griffiths Rankin Cook Architects, the Museum opened in May 2005. Appropriately, its opening coincided with the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe and also the 125th anniversary of the museum itself.
The museum's four permanent exhibition spaces, called the Canadian Experience Galleries, are arranged in chronological fashion to trace the history of armed conflict and its effect on Canadian history and culture. A fifth gallery, named the Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour, is devoted to an exploration of the role of remembrance in the Canadian war experience.
With an emphasis on the stories of individuals rather than on artifacts, the exhibitions draw visitors along a journey through time that traces Canada's involvement in the major world and regional conflicts that have shaped the modern world. These include clashes between Canada's native peoples and the later conflicts between the founding nations that eventually led to the creation of Canada. The journey continues into the modern era with Canada's participation in the two world wars and the country's later involvement in war and peacekeeping situations around the world, including the various Cold War crises, the nationalistic restructuring of the Balkans and the efforts to bring democracy to Afghanistan.
Interpretive programs, on- and off-site, enhance the experience of Canada's war history. As well, temporary exhibitions expand upon themes explored in the permanent exhibitions and serve to place the Canadian experience in a world context.
In addition to its exhibition program, the Museum is custodian of one of the world's finest collections of military artifacts. Numbering approximately 500 000 objects, the holdings also include the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art which itself comprises more than 13 000 works of art.
The Canadian Museum of History Corporation manages the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum.