Museum History

Building a collection

When the Canada Aviation and Space Museum first opened at Uplands Airport in Ottawa in 1960, it presented one of three major collections owned by the Canadian government. At that time, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum’s focus was on bush flying and early aircraft manufacturers in Canada. A second collection, held by the Canadian War Museum, concentrated on military aircraft from the First World War to the 1950's, while the third collection held by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) emphasized military aircraft related to RCAF history.

Beginning in 1964, the three collections were amalgamated for public display under a new name, the National Aeronautical Collection, and housed in Second World War era hangars at Ottawa’s historic Rockcliffe Airport. The arrangement, which gave visitors a better perspective on the development and use of aircraft in Canada over the years, proved to be tremendously popular.

In 1967, the Museum joined with the Canada Science and Technology Museum, then known as the National Museum of Science and Technology, and the National Aeronautical Collection continued to acquire both military and civil aircraft important to Canadian and world aviation history. The current Museum display building opened in 1988 and was supplemented by the large adjacent Reserve Hangar in 2005. In 1990, the Museum, along with the Canada Science and Technology Museum, was incorporated into the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation (CSTMC) and later joined by the Canada Agriculture Museum. In 2000, the National Aviation Museum was officially renamed the Canada Aviation Museum. The internationally renowned collection gives particular, but not exclusive, reference to Canadian achievements. Consequently, more than 130 aircraft and numerous artifacts such as engines, propellers and instruments from many nations are represented in the collection.

As Canada’s contribution to the field of aviation and aerospace continues to grow, the Canada Aviation Museum will be growing along with it, by including the representation of human space flight in its mandate and collection. This initiative is the result of a dynamic partnership between the Canadian Space Agency and the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. To better reflect the changes in its mandate, the Museum has changed its name to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. These changes will herald a new direction for the Museum in the development, interpretation, and presentation of its expanded collection.

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum continues to engage visitors to the wonder of flight with its new programming, activities, spectacular collection, and special events. The visitor is presented with the story of mankind’s ancient dream of flight celebrating the significant part that aviation has played in affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians from its beginning in Canada in 1909 to present day. To further provide access to Canada’s aviation heritage, the Museum is set to embark on construction work in spring 2009 that will add two state-of-the-art classrooms fitted for universal access and a multi-purpose auditorium. These enhancements will provide much needed space for programming, outreach activities and special cultural events.

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum as Canada’s national museum has earned an international reputation and following and is recognized as having the most extensive aviation collection in Canada and one which ranks among the finest in the world.