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Take a virtual visit to Waterloo Region’s amazing museums

Take a virtual visit to Waterloo Region’s amazing museumsTake a virtual visit to Waterloo Region’s amazing museums

Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum

by Alex Kinsella | May 2021

If you ever played the classic video game SimCity growing up, you’ll know one of the quickest ways to increase happiness for your citizens was to build a museum. Real-world museums and galleries have the same effect. They enrich our lives by letting us explore the history, learn about different cultures and experiences, and expose us to the beauty of art.

Waterloo Region is home to many fantastic museums and galleries that attract visitors from across Canada and the world. May also happens to be Museum Month, so let us take you on a tour of the museums that call Waterloo Region home. As with everything in life, some events and exhibitions are delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are museums, and then there’s THEMUSEUM

When we think of museums in Waterloo Region, we think of one word, uppercase – THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener. For over a decade, THEMUSEUM has brought in exhibitions featuring everything from Andy Warhol to dinosaurs to the world of quantum computers and more. While THEMUSEUM is closed to the public, you can still explore online with them through virtual events for everyone from young learners to experienced explorers with their 55 & Better series.

When THEMUSEUM’s doors open again this summer, you can immerse yourself in a prehistoric world with Dinosaurs – The Age of Big Weird Feathered Things. The exhibit lets you get up close enough to do a TikTok dance with lifelike dinosaurs. Later this year, THEMUSEUM is bringing SONICA – The Sound Experience to our ears. The exhibit features eight inspiring artists and artist groups that interpret and explore the world of sound. And, UNZIPPED – the first international exhibition devoted to the world-famous rock band, The Rolling Stones – makes its Canadian debut at THEMUSEUM this November.

You can learn more about these exhibits and THEMUSEUM at themuseum.ca.

 

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Stories of real hip-hop in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge

Museums let us explore the histories of peoples and places from far away. They open up windows to learn about new things and a little about how we fit into history. But what about our history – especially the stories that don’t get told often? That question is behind a project by local musician and Full Circle Foods owner Sam Nabi. As a rap artist, he knew the local history of rap and hip-hop across the region and wanted to document and share this ongoing history.

With support from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund, Nabi created Tri-City Hip-Hop. This interactive website tells the stories of hip-hop from Kingscourt Park in Waterloo to Hi-Fi Way Studios in Cambridge. You can click on map markers to see videos, commentary, and first-hand history from the artists involved. You can even bring the site up on your smartphone and explore the spaces in person when it’s safe to do so. Explore Waterloo Region’s hip-hop roots at tricityhiphop.com.

a screen grab of Tri City Hip Hop's Facebook map of some of the historic locations for hip hop happenings in Waterloo Region

Art for the eyes and soul: Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery

From its start in a bicycle shed behind Kitchener Waterloo Collegiate Institute (KCI) in 1956 to its current home inside Centre in the Square in downtown Kitchener, the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG) continues to be the leader in art and culture across Waterloo Region. The gallery delivers perception-changing experiences with a mix of groundbreaking exhibitions such as Deanna Bowen: Black Drones in the Hive and selections from their permanent collection of over 4,200 works of art.

KWAG’s Family Sunday programming offers virtual and online activities to explore art from home. In May, the theme is My Favourite Things, with activities to explore and think about what makes you happy – whether in your family, home, or neighborhood. Their latest Permanent Collection exhibition – Articulating Legibility – will have a virtual video tour later this spring for you to explore from home. You can explore the gallery’s digital exhibition offerings from home at kwag.ca.

Art on campus

Wilfrid Laurier University is more than sports and business – it’s home to the Robert Langen Art Gallery. Located in the university’s visual art centre, the gallery is home to an art collection of more than 2,500 works, including pieces by Henry Moore, Woldemar Neufeld, and more.

This June, the gallery hosts the virtual Empty Bowls charity event in support of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. The first 125 tickets purchased will be eligible to receive a handmade bowl created by a member of the Waterloo Potters’ Workshop. Visit the gallery’s website to learn more about their collection and upcoming exhibitions.

Schneider Haus Rules

Museums house history – but for the Schneider Haus National Historic Site, the house itself is history. Schneider Haus is one of the city’s oldest houses dating back to 1816. Located in downtown Kitchener on Queen Street, the site lets you explore and experience hands-on activities, exhibits, gardens, and more.

This month, you can explore their outdoor exhibit Inking the Bond: Memorial Tattoos. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Susan Cadell, a Professor of Social work at Renison University College. It’s a series of images from her research on people who get tattoos to memorialize a loved one. You can explore the exhibition at the Schneider Haus National Historic Site in lightbox images along the historic house or through individual photos displayed throughout our community. Discover more of what the Schneider Haus National Historic Site has to offer on their site.

 

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The man, the myth, the museum?

The Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum has activities to keep you and your family connected and engaged while staying home. This month, they’re hosting Women’s History in the Making, a series of free talks with local women who are working to make a difference in our community. You can also discover crafts, coloring sheets, recipes, and videos for activities to do at home. Learn more at waterlooregionmuseum.ca.

Waterloo Region Museum

Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum

Don’t worry about breaking anything

The Canadian Clay and Glass Museum is an amazing experience, but I often find myself worried I’m going to knock something over. Thankfully, they have a 3D tour of their Nature Inspired exhibition available. Natured Inspired features selections from their permanent collection of clay, glass, and copper enamel interpretations of the natural world. Explore the museum from the safety of home at theclayandglass.ca.

The buildings may be closed, but the doors are open

Doors Open Waterloo Region has always been a great way to get an inside view of spaces in our community we’d never usually get to explore. With COVID-19, Doors Open has made the move to video with a series of videos taking you inside some of the most exciting buildings and spaces in Waterloo Region. Each episode is around five to ten minutes long and takes you on an in-depth behind-the-scenes tour of spaces along with riveting stories from local leaders and artists. This year’s tour includes spaces like the William Street Pumping Station, the Indigenous Artifacts Dig at Fischer-Hallman Road, and the new The Gies Family Centre Hospice of Waterloo Region site. You can watch all the episodes on the Region of Waterloo’s YouTube Channel and catch last year’s episodes here.

two colourful Indigenous art installations at the entrance to Huron Natural Area in Kitchener (installations created by artist Luke Swinson, August Swinson and Tsista Kennedy)

Indigenous art installations located at the Huron Natural Area (Artists Luke Swinson, August Swinson and Tsista Kennedy)

We’re all looking forward to visiting in person, but there are great options to explore our museums and galleries while keeping each other safe.

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Alex Kinsella is a freelance writer and marketer based in Waterloo Region. He’s the guy behind TL;WR – Waterloo Region’s weekly events newsletter. He’s worked with some of Canada’s most well-known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing.

Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine, Community Edition and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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