Profit & Ambition: Canada’s Epic Fur Trade Story

December 9, 2009 --- This isn’t just a story – it’s our history.

Since its September debut at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, QC, a special exhibit highlighting the history of Canada’s fur trade has captivated visitors with its informative display and playful interactivity.

Among the artifacts on display are muskets, powder flasks, metal knives, axes, pots, brooches, rings, silver ornaments used for trade, European wool clothing, Aboriginal skin clothing decorated with glass beads, and a top hat made from beaver pelt. The authentic artifacts were collected by the museum from different collections across Canada.

Also on display is a replica of traditional birch bark canoe, built to scale at 10-feet long. The replica was need because as a result of treacherous traveling conditions, none of the original canoes used in the fur trade were recovered. Historically, the canoes were designed to carry up to five tonnes including merchandise for trade, the band of Voyageurs and sometimes their wives.

Visitors will find detailed maps of the trade routes and waterways across Canada used by the fur traders throughout the display. Stand-alone glass displays also hold trade log books, partnership agreements, voyageur contracts and account books. A rare artifact also on display is the first edition of Alexander Mackenzie’s published journal, which has been restored by the museum.

Interactive features attractive to visitors of all ages include tangible samples of moose, buffalo and beaver fur as well as a weight scale and height ruler to determine whether one would fit the weight and height requirements of a Voyageur: a maximum height of 5’6” and maximum weight of 140 lbs.

In conjunction with the special exhibition, several activities have taken place at the museum. The first, a demonstration about Aboriginal technology, was led by Daniel “Penock” Smith who made a toboggan, snowshoes and canoe using traditional tools and materials. The second, called Music of the Voyageurs, featured music and stories of the fur trade performed by Michel-André Vallières, a folk singer from Gatineau. On December 27th and 30th, the museum will feature a double showing of an Imax film called The Flying Canoe, a dramatic and thrilling tale about a group of historic Voyageurs and their canoe adventures on New Year’s Eve.

Also in relation to the exhibit is a book about the North West Company and it’s participation in the fur trade. Written by curator David A. Morrison, the book is available for purchase online as well as in the museum’s gift shop.

The museum is open to visitors Monday to Wednesday and Friday to Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Thursday, the museum is open until 8 pm. The Profit & Ambition exhibit will remain at the museum until September 2010. For more information, please call (819) 776-7000 or visit their website at www.civilization.ca.

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