The Humble Beginnings of Ottawa
The Bytown Museum recounts the history of the area that would become Ottawa. Since time immemorial, the
Anishinàbe Algonquin People lived and hunted in the territory surrounding the Kichi Sìbì (the Great River), now
known as the Ottawa River Valley. In 1826, and with the arrival of British Military Engineers under Lt.-Col. John
By, the colonial settlement which grew up around the Rideau Canal works, would become known as Bytown,
Following the completion of the Rideau Canal, our story turns to the semi-mythical lumberjacks and so-called
Lumber Barons; their work transformed Bytown into the lumber capital of the world. From there, the actions of
the infamous shantymen and strong-arm Shiners of the era would cement Bytown’s reputation as one of the
most violent places in all of British North America. In less than thirty years, Bytown evolved into the City of
Ottawa; changing its name, its character, and its reputation, and eventually becoming a thriving capital city.
We invite you to visit the two floors of our Permanent Gallery exhibition, where you will discover the amazing
stories and people that shaped Bytown and Ottawa through to the 1920s. Once your visit is complete, please
also explore our Temporary and Community Gallery displays, which rotate regularly and highlight aspects of our
collection, as well as the diverse histories of the people and communities who have made Ottawa up to present
Our Permanent Gallery exhibition is presented in English, French, and Anishnabemowin.
Explore our Permanent Gallery at your leisure or accompanied by our audio tour (included FREE with admission) which is available in six languages: