Every year, the Canadian Museum of Nature hosts a popular open house for the general public at its research and collections facility in Gatineau, Quebec (Aylmer sector).

The building is several times bigger than the familiar downtown Ottawa museum building, and contains many research laboratories and nature collections.

People look at a mounted mastodon skeleton.
The entrance to the research and collections facility with welcoming Mastodon skeleton. Image: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

At the open house, curators, scientific staff and volunteers are on hand to answer questions and share their knowledge. There are a number of activities for families with kids. The open house is very popular and typically gets about 3700 attendees.

Major exhibitions include dinosaurs, mammals, insects, minerals, aquatic creatures, botany, DNA and the Arctic. Many amazing and ancient things are revealed to the public.

The following photos document some of the highlights of the latest open house, held in October 2016.

Composite: Large vertebrate skeletons, the skeleton and a model of Tiktaalik roseae, a mounted muskox, dinosaur skulls and bones.
Skeletons out of the closet:
Top left: Some specimens of the museum’s vertebrate zoology collection, with moose, bison and seal skeletons.
Top right: Model of the “fishapod” (Tiktaalik roseae), a 375 million-year-old fossil fish discovered in the Arctic in 2004. It was the first fish species to venture onto land. Kieran Shepard, Curator of the palaeobiology collection, answered questions from attendees.
Bottom left: Two taxidermied muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus). Muskoxen originated in Eurasia, and probably reached North America across the Bering Strait. They are superbly adapted to Arctic conditions by their compact build and thick pelt as well as other adaptations.
Bottom right: Horned-dinosaur skulls and other dinosaur parts.
Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature
Specimens in the fish lab.
An exhibition of aquatic specimens preserved in jars of ethanol. The museum’s fish lab lends out specimens to institutions around the world. As explained by Noel Alfonso, Senior Research Assistant in Zoology, a specimen is removed from its jar, wrapped in cheese cloth, put in a bag and flown to its destination (i.e., “flying fish”). Image: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature
Rows of insects in a display case.
Do you love the beetle? The museum has hundreds of drawers with thousands of beetles and other varieties of insects collected from around the world. Bob Anderson, Ph.D. and Research Scientist in Zoology, was on hand to answer questions. Enlarged photos of scarab beetles are on display at the museum in downtown Ottawa. Image: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature
Composite: In each image, a person behind a table with specimens talks to visitors.
Experts answering questions about fossils:
Top left: Palaeontologist Xiao-chun Wu, Ph.D., talks about early dinosaur skulls to some young attendees. Shelves behind hold hundreds of plaster-protected fossils from the field that have yet to be unwrapped.
Top right: Volunteer William McDonald, whose father Alan is a Collection Technician at the museum, describes the procedures involved in preparing fossils. In the foreground is an assembled ancient turtle shell.
Bottom left: Collection Technician Margaret Currie discusses origins of the ice ages and compares woolly mammoths to mastodons and modern elephants.
Bottom right: Research Scientist in Palaeobiology Jordan Mallon, Ph.D., explains a dinosaur skull and claw (and a T. rex skull, not in the photo).
Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature
Composite: A visitor handles a fossil, a man stands beside a giant snail model.
Left: Attendee Ed Gregory handles a 70 million-year-old fossil from a herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur, with the assistance of two museum volunteers. Image: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature
Right: Joe Holmes, a museum volunteer in the diatom lab, stands beside a large snail model in the corridor of the collection and preservation area. In this section, food and drink are banned to avoid attracting insects, which would also eat the collection specimens. Image: Ed Gregory © Canadian Museum of Nature
Composite: Tools, meteorites and a moon rock.
Tools, meteorites and a moon rock:
Left: Scott Rufolo, Ph.D. and Research Assistant in Palaeobiology, discusses archaeological sites in the Arctic, including those of the Franklin Expedition. His table displays prehistoric tools found in the Arctic.
Middle: Museum volunteer Christian Rochford shows off meteorites and a moon rock to curious onlookers.
Right: Plaque with moon rock collected on the Apollo 17 mission to the Taurus-Littrow Valley, plus a Canadian flag that was carried on the same mission. Inscriptions express hope for world peace from the people of America, and a dedication of the plaque to the Canadian people by President Richard Nixon in 1973.
Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature
View of the DNA lab.
Inside the popular DNA lab: “A fox in a box”. The sign above it shows some DNA sequences that distinguish the red fox from other mammals. Left is Roger Bull, a Senior Research Assistant in Botany, and Coordinator of the Laboratory of Molecular Biodiversity. The museum does DNA research on plants, animals, algae and diatoms. Image: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature