Illuminating the Canadian Museum of History

January 8, 2018

After two years of work, Lightemotion has added another noteworthy project to its list with the lighting design for Gatineau’s Canadian Museum of History. The museum welcomes over 1.2 million visitors each year to its celebrated complex in the heart of the National Capital Region, making it the country’s most-visited museum. With roots stretching back to 1856, it is one of Canada’s oldest public institutions and a respected centre of museological excellence, sharing its expertise in history, archaeology, ethnology and cultural studies both within Canada and abroad.

For Lightemotion’s President, François Roupinian, designing the lighting for this type of museum is an exciting challenge: “The light should act as a magic wand, directing the viewer’s attention to key areas.” Through a skillful combination of museum and architectural lighting, Lightemotion has highlighted the work of architect Douglas Cardinal while showcasing the museum’s history. 

Success is in the details

To accomplish such a feat with a maximum spectrum of effects, the team used over 40 kinds of light fixtures. From theatrical floodlights to gobo projectors and miniature LED heads for subtly illuminating even the smallest details of the displays, all equipment used was carefully studied and adjusted in order to create a unique path of light.

According to François Roupinian, “Flexibility is important for creating the right lighting.” Nothing was left to chance, with features including interchangeable lenses, zoom, anti-glare accessories, an integrated potentiometer to adjust the lighting level for conservation needs and ambience, and the option to add colour filters. For this purpose, the lighting manufacturers were chosen with particular care so that a wide range of choices would be available to ensure colour consistency.

A technical challenge

Beyond the myriad fixtures required, this type of project comes with its own set of challenges. The first is using LED technology to recreate the warmth and subtlety of halogen, as LEDs are often too bright for the more subtle needs of a museum. Another important element to take into account was that certain fragile artifacts are sensitive to heat. When fine-tuning the lighting, Lightemotion worked closely with the museum’s conservation team to provide consistent and suitable lighting, carrying out tests that included thermal models to ensure optimal conservation conditions for the artifacts.

The museum’s unifying element

The Canadian Museum of History’s emblematic dome acts as a visual reference point throughout most of the museum pathway. As the dome is an immense structure where it is impossible to install lighting, the team had to use a special approach: “We wanted to use this constraint as an advantage. That’s where we got the idea to use the dome to create light with indirect lighting. We wanted to make it the centrepiece of the museum’s ecosystem.” After many colour tests, the team was able to create their desired effect: a timeless tone for a comfortable atmosphere where visitors feel as if they have stepped into the museum’s very own world.
As explained by François Roupinian, “The light ultimately needs to tell a story. The visitors shouldn’t have to be aware of the technical feats behind the scenes. The lighting should create a complete sensory experience.” 

Lightemotion is a lighting design consultant with offices in Montreal and Toronto, and award-winning local and international projects. Lightemotion’s project portfolio spans across many diverse project types from cultural, hospitality, retail, corporate, government, transportation and academic to landscape and master planning; www.lightemotion.ca

Photo credit: Gordon King

Related Articles


Changing Scene

  • Acuity Brands Fiscal 2022 Fourth-Quarter And Full-Year Results

    December 6, 2022 Acuity Brands, Inc. (NYSE: AYI) (the “Company”) a market-leading industrial technology company announced net sales of $1.11 billion for the fiscal fourth quarter ended August 31, 2022, an increase of 11.8 percent, or $117.6 million compared to the same period in 2021. Diluted earnings per share (“EPS”) was $3.48 in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022, an increase of 27.9… Read More…

  • Orion Energy Systems Q2 Revenue, FY’23 Revenue Outlook

    December 6, 2022 Orion Energy Systems is a energy-efficient LED lighting and controls, maintenance service and EV charging station solutions provider out of Wisconsin. Q2 Financial Highlights CEO CommentaryMike Altschaefl, Orion’s CEO, commented, “The first half of our fiscal year was impacted by the continuation of customer project delays which began in the second half… Read More…


Design

  • LIT Lighting Design Awards: Capital Park Landscape, Victoria, BC

    LIT Lighting Design Awards: Capital Park Landscape, Victoria, BC

    December 5, 2022 Located in one of Victoria’s most historic neighborhoods, the Capital Park Mixed-Use Development is made up of seven buildings stretching across three lots and is responsible for nearly an entire city block of Victoria’s downtown core. The project took place over the span of three phases and eight years. The first phase… Read More…

  • Smith + Andersen Toronto 2022 IES Award Winning Projects

    Smith + Andersen Toronto 2022 IES Award Winning Projects

    December 5, 2022 This year, the Smith + Andersen Lighting Team received the Toronto IES 2022 Illumination Section Award and the IESNA Illumination Award of Merit for two projects: Grasett Park (Exterior Lighting Design), and St Paul’s Church (Interior Lighting Design). Each of these Toronto-based projects demonstrate a level of design excellence expected by the… Read More…


New Products

  • Stanpro Retro 5 CCT Selectable Downlight

    Stanpro Retro 5 CCT Selectable Downlight

    December 1, 2022 This Retro LED downlight offers a simple and economical retrofit solution for all traditional recessed applications. Easy installed with a quick connects wire and the E26 socket adaptor, this LED downlight is ideal for retrofitting into most of traditional 4″ and 5″-6″ housings, it will be installed in no time. The color… Read More…

  • Eureka Introduces Tangram-Trace Architectural Luminaire

    Eureka Introduces Tangram-Trace Architectural Luminaire

    November 30, 2022 Eureka announced the release of its Tangram-Trace architectural luminaire. Using bold straps and a prismatic lens, Tangram-Trace creates a dramatic aesthetic and provides high quality, diffused linear illumination. It is intended for modern environments such as conference and executive areas, hospitality applications, or reception spaces. Tangram-Trace luminaires are suspended using four-inch-wide straps,… Read More…