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Special Exhibitions in Ottawa, 2020

Over the years we have seen some amazing things at special exhibitions, from the Dead Sea Scrolls and one of the earliest copies of the Magna Charta to the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and paintings by Van Gogh.

However, we almost missed several of these special exhibitions because it’s hard to keep track of what’s coming up.  To solve that problem, I’ve made a list of the year’s special exhibitions in Ottawa and am sharing it with you.

These are special exhibitions at some of Ottawa’s largest museums and galleries. This list does not include the permanent exhibitions, some of which are amazing, nor does it include all the smaller museums and galleries. However, it should help you schedule outings and field trips.  (If there is a must-see exhibition at a smaller museum or gallery, please let me know in the comments.)

Just to remind you, many Ottawa museums are free from 5PM to closing on Thursdays and most of them have free passes available from the Ottawa Public Library. However, there are extra entrance fees for some special exhibitions and some require advance registration. Also, some museums are closed certain days of the week. Always check the website to avoid disappointments.

Canadian Museum of History

  • Jewish Journeys: Stories of Immigration, May 9, 2019-Feb 23, 2020
  • Unceded: Voices of the Land, May 3, 2019-Sep 7, 2020
  • A Nation’s Calling Card, Mar 29, 2019-Mar 29-2020
  • Beyond Bluenose: The William James Roué collection, Jul 1, 2017-Jun 30, 2020
  • Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit, Jan 25, 2020-May 18, 2020

Canadian War Museum

  • Canadian Forces Artist Program, Feb 14, 2020-May 18, 2020
  • Invasion: Canadians and the Battle of Normandy, Jun 6, 2019-Mar 31, 2020
  • *Royal Canadian Legion Poster and Literary Contest, Jul 1, 2019-Jun 15, 2020

National Gallery of Canada

  • Hanran: 20th Century Japanese Photography, Oct 11, 2019-Mar 22, 2020
  • Beautiful Monsters in Early European Prints and Drawings (1450-1700), Nov 29, 2019-March 29, 2020
  • PhotoLab 6: New Generation Photography Award Exhibition, Oct 11, 2019 -Mar 22, 202
  • Àbadakone/Continuous Fire/Feu continuel, Nov 8, 2019-Apr 5, 2020  extended until summer 2020
  • William Blake,1757-1827: Illustrated Books, Jan 14, 2020-Apr 26, 2020
  • William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play the Dance, Dec 14, 2019-Nov 8, 2020
  • Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons, coming in Fall 2020
  • Becoming Rembrandt, coming in Spring 2021

Canadian Museum of Nature

  • Me and My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You, until Mar 29, 2020
  • Butterflies in Flight, until Mar 22, 2020 (photos of last year’s exhibition)
  • Qilalukkat! Oct 25, 2019-Sep 13, 2021

The three museums in the Ingenium Group (Canada Science and Technology Museum, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, Canada Aviation and Space Museum) are, unfortunately, not advertising upcoming temporary exhibitions. However, they do have many daily events, especially in the summer. They often have special weekends and when they do have special exhibitions, they can be brilliant (like the one last year about Leonardo Da Vinci) so it is worth checking their calendar of events frequently.

Note: I am not necessarily recommending any of these exhibitions, just listing them.

*This exhibition is free and could be a great inspiration to any student interested in entering the contests, which are highly recommended as a supplement to history, art or literature, and also as outside validation of homeschool marks.

I have written about some previous exhibitions:


  1. What a great resource for hands-on learning! I admit to you, friend, that I have not visited many museums since my oldest two left for university! The “baby’ and I tend to like getting our work done and staying at home. However, I do plan to go to a small art museum on campus when I visit Grace this weekend. She insists! We are also visiting her favorite spot to sketch, the indoor garden on campus.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      I hope you and Grace had a good time at the art museum! We also struggle with wanting to go out to museums when there’s work to be done, but when we do get out, it is so worthwhile.

      The last time, I went by myself because our annual pass was almost expired and no one else wanted to go. It was bittersweet, being the old lady in the elevator, watching the all moms and little kids enjoying the outing the way we used to.

      1. We had a wonderful time, a new, to me, museum, exploring with my girl and later a guided tour. I love her university! Yes, I can relate to being the old lady alone, too. I do feel more grandmotherly now that I am watching toddlers and have them to take to parks.

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