Friday, June 12, 2009

Justin Wonnacott: Somerset @ the Bytown Museum

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the Bytown Museum's summer exhibition: Justin Wonnacott: Somerset.

Here's the title card:

In case you didn't know, the Bytown museum is located in the oldest building in Ottawa, on the West side of the Rideau Canal, all the way up at the end of the pathway, behind Parliament Hill, down the steps from the Plaza bridge/Confederation Square. Steve Dezort, the museum's curator, was at the door welcoming attendees:

The exhibition is quite a new approach by the museum, which has traditionally focused on the early history of Ottawa (formerly called Bytown).

Here's a description of the exhibition which greets you as you come up to the second floor (pardon the poor lighting; I wasn't using a flash). Justin has taken many, many photos of Somerset street over the last few years and used them to compile a visual record of the street for time immemorial.

You may recall his blog, which was on hiatus for a couple of years. It's been revived, and you can see many of his photos there, as well as on his Flickr and Facebook, from the project website, ( en français). Plenty of great info there.

The opening was a great event. Lots of people turned out, and free beer was provided by Heritage Brewing, which recently returned to central Ottawa (near Carling and Clyde), serving beer in its trademark stubby bottles. ("Real ones," said Ron, the brewer. Not those knock-off screw caps!). I had a lengthy chat with Ron, who says the brewery enjoys receiving tour groups.

One hundred percent of the Bytown Museum's funding comes from the City of Ottawa (meaning they suffer from the annual chronic funding problems facing Ottawa's cultural community), yet over 80% of the visitors are from out of town, which means that Ottawans are missing out on this gem of our history. Let's hope that the Somerset exhibition initiative is the start of a new trend of more local visitors.

The exhibition is open until November 30, 2009, and the museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm, to 8pm on Wednesdays--so you have no excuse not to go!

Justin's exhibition and blog have inspired me to post more of the things I photograph. I just need to find the time!

[Edit 2009-10-07: Corrected spelling of Justin Wonnacott]

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