But when the National Gallery of Canada opened an exhibition this summer centred around the Dutch artist, officials at culinary arts school Le Cordon Bleu asked executive chef Yannick Anton to create a Van Gogh-inspired menu that would be advertised on the Ottawa Tourism website.
“He drew inspiration from the art and the colour and the texture and drew the menu from there,” said spokesperson Linda Montone.
Contributors posting to Tripadvisor.ca raved about Le Cordon Bleu’s “Starry Night” black risotto and the “Sunflowers” dish of duck breast petals and asparagus stems.
While the Van Gogh exhibit may have wrapped up earlier this month, the National Gallery and area museums are preparing to launch a new round of permanent and temporary exhibitions, creating new opportunities for tourism operators.
National Gallery of Canada
Q1 and Q2 attendance: 185,964 (up 30.3% since 2011)
With 230,146 people taking in the gallery’s Van Gogh exhibit between May and September – the fourth most popular show in its history – spokesperson Serge Thériault said part of the success came through an arrangement with local hotels.
The gallery set aside a certain number of tickets for local hoteliers to use as part of packages. It did not receive any direct financial benefit from these arrangements, Mr. Thériault added. Instead, the benefit came from having tourists steered towards the gallery during their stay in Ottawa, bringing up the gallery’s overall reputation and visitor numbers.
“It’s more visitors to the gallery. It’s a win-win,” he said. Final numbers on the packages are not yet available.
Next summer’s exhibition will be a gallery of international indigenous art featuring about 70 works from 100 artists. Few details are available at this point because negotiations with 10 lending institutions are still being worked out, Mr. Thériault said.
In the spring, the gallery issued a request for information on Merx asking for industry ideas on building a Wi-Fi network. While it is initially supposed to replace the non-networked audio guides that visitors use in the museum, it could later include content such as walking tours.
Mr. Thériault said the gallery received several industry ideas concerning how to implement the network, and that officials are reviewing those ideas to decide how best to proceed. A decision should be rendered early next year.
Canada Science and Technology Museums Corp.
Q1 and Q2 attendance:
- Canada Agriculture Museum: 80,979 (up 3.5% since 2011)
- Canada Aviation and Space Museum: 88,105 (up 5.9% since 2011)
- Canada Science and Technology Museum: 156,855 (down 7.6% since 2011)
In the hunt for new sources of revenue, the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corp. has a new idea that is working well at La Cité de l’énergie.
This summer, the museum group sent about a dozen fire trucks to the Shawinigan, Que. attraction, which is running an exhibition on the topic.
Part of the revenues from the exhibit are now flowing back to the corporation, which did not have initial financial figures available.
“It’s more creative and entrepreneurial in how we will engage with other partners in the country,” said Yves St-Onge, vice-president of public affairs and marketing for the museums corporation.
Attendance has increased six per cent at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum since the museum completed a $7-million, 28,000-square-foot wing in 2011, but the museum is hoping to aim even higher in future years.
Part of that will come through expanding the aviation museum’s space exhibit in the next year or so to put an emphasis on human spaceflight. This will include prominent mention of astronaut Chris Hadfield’s three-month position as the commander of the International Space Station in 2013, a first for a Canadian.
A 20-year-old space exhibit at the Canada Science and Technology Museum will be modified to focus on commercial satellites. Existing exhibits will also be upgraded, as they are showing their age, Mr. St-Onge said.
Canadian Museum of Nature
Q1 and Q2 attendance: 187,055 (down 10.3% since 2011)
The Museum of Nature will expand an existing permanent exhibition, the Vale Earth Gallery, to 8,000 square feet. Opening in November, it will include about 800 examples of minerals and rocks, a custom sedimentary cave and various displays combining traditional words and pictures with a suite of interactive displays. Visitors will be able to virtually cause earthquakes and create volcanoes, for example.
“We have added some interactivity and we’ve spread out specimens and the main … content in a way in the gallery that it’s accessible for all different points (of entry) and different types of visitors,” said Marc Beck, the project manager and exhibition designer overseeing the new gallery installation and content.
As a tender for exhibit furniture is still open, the museum said it would not be releasing the estimated exhibit price tag so as not to influence bidding. Spokesperson Elizabeth McCrea added a typical exhibit costs between $2.5 million and $6 million.
When the Vale Earth Gallery expansion finishes, the museum’s next focus will be its permanent exhibit on the Canadian Arctic. That exhibit is slated to open in 2017 as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
Ms. McCrea said the exhibit is still in the very early planning stages and it is too early to give many specifics about the collection or the plans for exhibition. Around 65 per cent of the museum’s researchers do work in the Arctic, so there will be an emphasis on their work, she said.
The drop in attendance in the first half of 2012, she added, was due to falloff following a surge of interest in 2011 after the gallery completed six years of phased renovations in June 2010.