The Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.©Julia Pelish Photography

Take a digital tour of Canada’s museums

The Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.©Julia Pelish Photography

With the Virtual Museum of Canada’s app, you can look up the history and cultural context of art pieces from across the country. Above, contemporary art is displayed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Tricia Edgar Outdoors Columnist

You’re looking at a painting, and your thumb wiggles on the smartphone. Ah, yes. You look down, and there are all of the details of the painting laid out for you: the history of the painter, the time period and the cultural context. Whether they’re framing art or history, the apps in Canadian museums give visitors a deeper understanding of the work that they hold.

Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa

Feeling uncivilized? Head on over to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and get yourself sorted out with a 40-minute downloadable audio tour. Tours feature Canadian social and First Nations history. Since the museum is large, there are also floor maps and a calendar of events so that you get to the right place at the right time.

Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

The Canadian War Museum is another must-see stop in the Ottawa area. Its app allows you to navigate the museum using an interactive floor map. Ever wish those historic artifacts could talk? Now they can. Scan the QR codes around the museum and they’ll reveal images, text, audio and video that will better your understanding of Canadian military history. Pay attention: There’s a quiz at the end, too.

Royal BC Museum, Victoria

When is the next tour? Whenever you’d like! Over on the west coast, Victoria’s Royal BC Museum has launched the Wifarer app to guide visitors around the museum. This app helps museum visitors get in-depth information on museum displays, guiding them with video, audio, test and images.

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

The ROM really kicks in the cool factor with its augmented reality display. Think dinosaurs meets Star Trek. Oh, yes. The ROM Ultimate Dinosaurs app allows visitors to morph dinosaur skeletons into flesh-covered creatures. How would that dino move? Let it come alive — on your phone, that is. Run quickly to the ROM, since the exhibit only runs until March.

McCord Museum, Montreal

The McCord Museum’s innovative apps provide a portal into the history of Montreal life. Ever wondered what historic places looked like long ago? Move archival images onto views of current locations to discover how they have changed over the years. The McCord Museum also features a social app, so you and your friends can share your favourite parts of the museum with each other and add comments to share with the public.

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

If you like to stay in the know about art, the Art Gallery of Ontario will send you information about the events happening in the art world. Search for art in the gallery’s 80,000-piece collection and learn about current and upcoming exhibits.

Virtual Museum of Canada

Want to leap to museums across the country in a single bound? The Virtual Museum of Canada is for you, SuperVisitor. Although it’s not technically an app, Canada’s virtual museum features 600 virtual exhibits from museums across the country. From science to history, you can delve into nearly a million images, audio clips, and bits of video content from Canada’s museums, no jet lag required.

Canadian museums are embracing new technology. As more museums get on the smartphone train, we’re sure to see a sprinkling of QR codes and virtual reality images popping up at the majority of the nation’s museums. From tour guides on demand to complex augmented reality displays, Canadian museums are using smartphone technology to add another dimension to the museum experience.

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