return of the moose

While continuing to work on the computer project mentioned a couple of days ago, I came across some of my old photos taken at the Canadian Museum of Nature, situated in the Victoria Memorial Museum Building on MacLeod Street here in Ottawa. The building was begun in 1905, and is a wonderfully eclectic amalgamation of architectural styles – Gothic, Beaux-Arts and Tudor. The exterior is rather like a castle and features incredible stone carvings which employ “nature” as the theme. I’ll try to remember to post some photos of the exterior sometime soon. In the meantime, this image seemed interesting enough to share here on Burning Silo as there’s a bit of a story behind it.

The mosaic of the bull moose in the above photo is located on an expanse of floor that spans the main entrance where three Gothic doorways lead through a foyer and into an immense central atrium. This moose was only recently returned to public view after having been covered by a carpet for about forty years. During the restoration of the museum during the 1990s, the carpet was removed to reveal this wonderful mosaic beneath. According to the museum website:

During the 1950s, a Roman Catholic-school group visited the Museum through the main door, as was the practice back then. A nun with the group objected to the depiction of the bull’s genitals and requested that something be done about it in order to protect the moral values of visiting children. Fearing negative publicity, the Museum covered the mosaic with a carpet. The mosaic remained hidden and all but forgotten until the early 1990s, when the Atrium underwent restoration work and it was decided that the mosaic also be restored.

Isn’t that just a little bizarre? Whatever, it’s good to see the moose returned to his rightful domain.

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12 Responses to “return of the moose”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    What a beautiful mosaic. Being under wraps for 40 years probably protected it, and that’s just the unintentional consequence of protecting children from the horrors of genitals. This is why some people should never go to museums. All those genitals everywhere.

  2. Cathy Says:

    I’m laughing too hard about Robin’s comments above to rationally comment :0D

  3. burning silo Says:

    robin – Your comment about why some people should never go to museums is so true. I never cease to be amazed by people who visit museums and art galleries and react with shock at having been exposed to something new — something that might challenge their minds. Why bother going if they’re not prepared to see something new and different?
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    Cathy – Yes, robin’s comments made me laugh too… mainly because the’re so very true. I never cease to be amazed at how some people manage to be shocked by perfectly natural things in the world. With all the things to be legitimately shocked about, some moose genitals rate pretty low on the list.

  4. Jenn Says:

    Ooo. Scary ballsack. Yeesh.

  5. Ruth Says:

    I hope that nun never went to Florence or Rome. Moose genitals are nothing compared to the sculptures there!

  6. Duncan Says:

    Bev, I read recently that pictures of cows in childrens’ books are not allowed to show the udder. What is the world coming to?

  7. Wayne Says:

    I’m thinking that the kids probably wouldn’t have noticed at all. Or if they did, they could have asked their mentor. Oh yeah, the mentor!

    What a shame to have something covered up for so trivial a reason. The bright side is that maybe the protection preserved it for a saner time.

  8. burning silo Says:

    Jenn – Yeah, pretty scary, eh? (-:
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    Ruth – I started thinking about that yesterday. Pretty odd for someone to be bothered by something so insignificant.
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    Duncan – Isn’t that bizarre about cows with no udders. I’ve actually noticed that to some extent in the past — or udders depicted so that they are barely visible. How weird and uptight. I’d certainly rather be “exposed” to a cow udder than… oh… watching gratuitous scenes of violence on tv.
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    Wayne – I doubt any kid would have noticed too, so it seems all the more ridiculous. And yes, what a shame to have something so innocuous “censored” until it was pretty much forgotten. But you’re right – it’s great the it has been well preserved for a time in which it can be more appreciated — although I even have to wonder about the sanity of our times after reading Duncan’s comment about the cow udders.

  9. Deb Says:

    That is too funny about the moose being covered up…and sad. Denial only complicates things, it seems.

  10. burning silo Says:

    Deb – Yes, indeed, I do agree. When I look around at all of my friends’ kids who grew up on farms and learned so much about the natural world, farm animals, etc… and see what wonderful adults they’ve turned out to be, I can’t see where knowledge has done any of them much harm. (-:

  11. Peter Says:

    Hehe! I’m sure I’ve seen that moose, I was last at the museum about 8 years ago now I think, though it certainly didn’t stick out as anything to be covered up.

    I can however picture some kids getting a chuckle out of it, but thats just an excuse to educate them, not cover up.

    Wasn’t the statue of David covered for many years as well?

  12. burning silo Says:

    Peter – I think the moose has been visible for about 8 or 10 years now, so you probably did see it on your last visit. I really can’t imagine why someone would have objected to it, but I guess it takes all kinds! I’m not sure about the statue of David, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was covered up for awhile. Apparently, that has been done with statues at various times. I’ve even read that, during the Victorian period, the legs of certain styles of tables were covered because they were considered immodest (and these tables in no way resembled a human leg, so go figure!).