Planet Ice, a fascinating exhibition

Published on July 5 2022

On a recent rainy day, I visited the Canadian Museum of Nature, which I hadn’t been to in a long time. I’d forgotten how impressive nature can be. I was drawn by the special exhibition Planet Ice: Mysteries of the Ice Ages, which is on until September 5.

From the formation of the glaciers to the melting of the ice

The exhibition is divided into five themed sections, each reflecting a different historical period with its own issues. The first section explores the nature of ice itself: its composition, its role in the ecosystem, and how the Earth’s position in the universe influences its formation.

I then moved on to the second gallery, which looks at the evolution of animals and their adaptation to the cold. One display compares the proportions of muscle, fat, skin and coat of an elephant and a mammoth. The first being adapted to very high temperatures and the second to temperatures well below freezing, the comparison is striking!

Through a multi-sensory corridor, the third section shows the land masses that disappeared as a result of melting ice and rising sea levels. Interpretation panels explain how glaciers exert tremendous pressure on tectonic plates, resulting in the formation of inland seas. Many land bridges disappeared under these seas. I was surprised to see what the world looked like before the glaciers melted.

The fourth part of the exhibition taught me how the Tuniit and Thule people adapted to the cold. The display cases in this gallery contain many authentic artifacts from Canadian archaeological sites.

The last section brings us to the present day. It includes an ice-fishing hut and interpretive panels about winter activities in our time. I was surprised to learn about the role winter plays in our food consumption and even in our maple syrup production.


Awakening the senses

The exhibition’s displays engage the senses and generate actual physical sensations. I was amazed to enter a room where the temperature was lower than in the rest of the museum. Within a short time, I had goose bumps. I was glad I’d planned ahead and brought a warm jacket.

The lighting in some rooms is dim, but illuminated glaciers and snowflakes hung from the ceiling give the space an interesting atmosphere. Other areas feature high-contrast displays, such as life-size representations of large animals on a white background or images of natural disasters on a black background.

Throughout the exhibition, you can hear the sound of a storm wind blowing, and videos play at key points.

Well-integrated technology

The exhibition includes several digital touch stations. Among other things, visitors can design their own snowflake to understand how they are formed and why each one is unique.

Thermal cameras capture visitors’ images to illustrate the difference in temperature between the human body and its environment. This installation makes the concept of thermoregulation, which animals use to survive harsh winters, much easier to understand.

To view some of the digital works, you have to stand at a specific spot and wave your arms to brush away the snow and reveal the work. It’s a great way to loosen up a bit!


An invitation to reflect

The last part of the exhibition introduces a series of thought-provoking questions. How can we improve the situation? What is our role in climate change? Is it too late to turn back the clock? What are the best ways to reduce our ecological footprint? What are the real consequences of melting glaciers?

To complement the exhibition Planet Ice: Mysteries of the Ice Ages, I recommend visiting the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery. The very first exhibit is my favourite: a structure made of chunks of real ice on which a film is projected. Long live interdisciplinarity!

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