Surprising Stories on the Fly

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The first Felixstowe F-5L flying boat produced by Canadian Aeroplanes. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Summer 1918. Credit: Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, “Our First Flying Boat”, 1918

“Boundless Horizons” for Outreach Exhibitions

I love quirkiness—anything surprising that makes me pause, take note, or re-think. That’s one reason I find interpretive planning so rewarding. I get to find creative ways to share stories with museum visitors—layering catchy texts, evocative images, and historic objects.

Making JN-4 propellers on a specialized machine. This tool could carve four propellers in less than 30 minutes, 1918.
Making JN-4 propellers on a specialized machine. This tool could carve four propellers in less than 30 minutes, 1918. Credit: Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, Our Second Year, 1918

In late July 2017, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum mounted a small exhibition at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal. Each year, as part of an ongoing partnership with Aéroports de Montréal, we develop a new aviation-themed display—offering an unexpected diversion for travellers to enjoy. Past exhibitions have ranged in topic from flight in the 1910s to leading-edge ‘green’ aviation technologies. In 2017, with Canada 150 at the forefront of our minds, we created Boundless Horizons: Over 150 Years of Canadian Aerospace Innovation. Featured innovations range from the Silver Dart, the first powered airplane to fly in Canada, to Canadarm2, which plays an ongoing role in the success of the International Space Station.

Boundless Horizons includes a section that shares the story of Canadian Aeroplanes Limited—the first major aircraft manufacturer in Canada. The Museum is fortunate to have a set of the Toronto-based company’s commemorative photo albums. The striking images they contain truly inspired the exhibition team. Canadian Aeroplanes, a British-controlled company, was established in 1916 during the First World War. The company built training aircraft for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC)—a flying service controlled by the British Army. Canadian Aeroplanes produced roughly 1,200 Curtiss JN-4 Canucks for RFC-run flying schools in Southern Ontario. The company also constructed thirty Felixstowe F-5L flying boats for the U.S. Navy. (They look as interesting as they sound—check out the included image). Canadian Aeroplanes disbanded soon after the Armistice, as there was too little demand for aircraft once the war ended.

It’s always interesting to set up the Museum’s airport exhibitions. No one expects to see a display case with workers inside—let alone a display itself—as they wheel their carry-on to arrivals. For a day, we personally get to be part of the quirkiness. People will stop, ask questions, and share their thoughts about the display as we work. It’s gratifying to see people engage with the experiences we create.

Canada Aviation and Space Museum staff install Boundless Horizons at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, July 26, 2017.
Canada Aviation and Space Museum staff install Boundless Horizons at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, July 26, 2017.

 

A worker at Canadian Aeroplanes uses a heavy belt-driven sewing machine to stitch wire reinforcement onto pieces of an airplane wing, 1918.
A worker at Canadian Aeroplanes uses a heavy belt-driven sewing machine to stitch wire reinforcement onto pieces of an airplane wing, 1918. Photo credit: Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, Our Second Year, 1918

 

Workers laying bricks at the factory site, ca February 1917.
Workers laying bricks at the factory site, ca February 1917. Photo credit: Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, Our Second Year, 1918

 

Constructing wing panels for the F-5L, late 1918.
Constructing wing panels for the F-5L, late 1918. Photo credit: Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, Our Second Year, 1918
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Erin Poulton

Erin Poulton is the Exhibition Interpretation Officer at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.