Arts & Culture

Science and Technology Museum director on high tech exhibits, corporate sponsors, and the new space

Christina Tessier is a bright light in Ottawa’s museum community, having worked her way up from managing the small Bytown Museum to various federal posts, including her current job. Steel-toed boots and a hard hat sit by her desk. She can rattle off facts and figures to beat the band. Just don’t ask her to explain quantum computing.

Related: Pondering the future of the Science and Tech Museum by Paul Gessell. From May 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine

Will there be more emphasis on the present and future than the past?
Absolutely. What’s really interesting is when we make that connection between the past and the present and the future. It is not that the past doesn’t have value, because it absolutely does, and we have a fantastic collection that is based on the past and looks at the history of science and technology. Some of the exhibitions are focused on today and what is coming tomorrow. We open our crystal ball and try to see what the future of S & T innovation looks like. We do that as much as we’re able in the exhibitions, but more important is the programming we overlay that with.

Will there be more high tech in the exhibitions?
Yes. Our philosophy is to take the best of what technology has to offer to see where it fits in with the visitor experience we’re trying to build. See the virtual reality booth, which has an experience related to our 6400 locomotive. We have two mobile apps that feature augmented reality that will be layered over what we’re building in the new museum. In Medical Sensations, there is a cool piece where you’re standing in front of the screen and you can see the bone structure inside your body. You step back, and it puts the muscle systems on; you step back further, and you can see the blood systems. When we can combine a physical experience with digital, that is when we really hit the mark with people. We don’t want them to just walk around pushing buttons. We want them to feel they are active in the experience

Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation
Société des musées de sciences et technologie du Canada

How do you avoid conflicts of interest with corporate sponsorships?
The most important thing is we retain all the rights and the control over the content when we’re working with partners and sponsors. It’s us driving the content. We come together, and we find ourselves looking at a great partnership where we’re both benefiting from it.

What about the new park?
We absolutely believe it’s going to attract people to the museum. We’re actually looking for partners and sponsors for that space. We live in a community that lacks green space. There are a lot of people who live in high-rises in the area, and we would like to create that community gathering space for them here. We want to become that anchor in the east end of Ottawa. If we design something amazing for the community, we know that tourists will love it as well.

Canada Science and Technology Museum general director Christina Tessier. Photo by Jamie Kronick

Did losing your CEO complicate the project?
It hasn’t. Alex was an amazing leader for our organization. The planning was effectively done for the museum. Right now we are delivering. We have made no changes in the direction we are taking. The teams are all just working as they were before Alex’s departure.

Is the dream of a new museum dead for the next 50 years?
Who knows if it’s 50 years. We’re wonderfully excited about what we’re building.