General Guided Tour

General Guided Tour

General Guided Tour

Created:August 2015

Education Officer: Kimberly Reynolds

Audience: General Museum Visitors

Duration:Approximately 45 minutes (staff to be scheduled in a one hour block)

Notes on Interpretive Technique

Visitors to CASM are often extremely knowledgeable about aviation and often have a very personal connection to the subject. Rather than trying to be the voice of authority, allow your visitors the opportunity to share their knowledge with you and the others on the tour. This will result in a much more enriching experience for all concerned.

Participatory facilitation is a technique you can use to help create a conversation within your group and bring the best stories from your visitors to the group:

  • Start by introducing yourself including what has brought you to work at the Museum (e.g. My name is Kim and I'm in teacher's college. I love Museum's and thought it would be a great way to gain experience for my career as a teacher).
  • Next ask your visitors to introduce themselves and invite them to share, if they'd feel comfortable, why they are here today (Note: this is a technique geared for our typical museum guided tour which is often a very small grouping. This is not a technique to use with an entire bus-worth of visitors.). The purpose here is to break the ice between the visitors so that they will feel more comfortable as the tour progresses, talking to each other and sharing stories.
  • Find and share your personal connection to the subject. You might be a pilot or have a family member who is a veteran or perhaps you were fascinated to learn a particular something during your training – sharing these kinds of personal insights break down the barrier between you and your audience and will elicit their sharing of their own insights. (note: there is a difference between sharing a personal insight and offering personal opinions on sensitive topics – avoid making opinion statements that touch on sensitive issues).
  • Ask open-ended questions. Questions that can be answered by yes/no not only shut down conversation but they can also sometimes be perceived as being condescending when working with an adult audience in particular. Ask questions that elicit participation – you can draw from what the visitors have shared with you about their reasons for visiting, ask what they think a particular item might be used for etc…
  • Allow visitors time to speak. We tell visitors the tour will be approximately 45 minutes so that they have a gauge on the tour length but we want to leave a little flexibility so that visitors can share their stories. You will need to adapt your comments about an aircraft based on the time so that you can keep the tour moving with the goal of 45 minutes in mind.

Introducing "The Rules"

Avoid starting your tour with a long list of what not to do. This alienates your visitor and creates a negative impression. Start with a warm welcome and ask the group to come with you. Let the group know that they are welcome to take as many photographs as they wish, including flash photography.

When you get to the first stop that has a barrier, tell the visitors you'd like to draw it to their attention so that they don't trip on it. Explain that we have separated planes and people for their own protection – there are sometimes sharp parts that could hurt a person and, our hands have natural oils that, over time and thousands of touches, will destroy the fabric, paint etc… on the aircraft and so we ask their cooperation in keeping the aircraft in good condition by not touching the aircraft.

Be judicious about other "rules" and tailor them to the group. Always phrase your sentences in a positive manner when possible. For example, we do ask people not to eat or drink in the Museum but rather than saying "Don't eat or drink in the Museum" or even "Please no food or drink" turn it around and say, "We ask that you save beverages and snacks for the cafeteria or outside at our picnic tables."

The end of your tour is a good time to reinforce rules by giving the group instructions – you can remind them they are not to cross the barriers by telling them that if there is something they want to see close up, they should approach a staff member like yourself and see whether it is possible; let them know that if they are hungry or thirsty we have a cafeteria (and that they are welcome to bring their own food into it) as well as the picnic tables and tents outside.

Be Yourself

If you are a natural comedian and always get your friends laughing, use your sense of humour to your advantage on tour. Be careful that your jokes and comments are always "G" rated and appropriate to your group, never belittle a visitor – self-deprecating jokes are good. But don't try to be a comedian if that isn't your style. Maybe you are more of a quieter personality or more serious – there is always a way to use your own personality to connect to your audience!

And then Streeeeetch!

Once you are comfortable with your tour, start looking for ways to change it. That sounds counter-intuitive but if you're giving the same tour 4 times a day, 5 days a week, it will soon get boring for you. And if it gets boring for you… the visitor will find it lackluster too.

Ask your supervisor for reading time so you can learn more. Ask to spend some time talking to the curator – maybe you can pick up some new anecdotes about how we acquired a particular aircraft or how it was restored. Talk to the volunteers on the floor. Ask to shadow a guide whose technique is different from yours and see what you can incorporate. Maybe humour isn't your think but you'd like to try? Try something new on for size and see how it works. Work on different ways to deliver the tour based on different groups (e.g. a group of seniors vs a family with young children).

Ending Your Tour

Always thank your group for their attention and participation. In addition to reinforcing a few key rules take this time to see if there are any last questions, to point out important features and conveniences (e.g. bathrooms, cafeteria, special items on display) as well as any activities, demonstrations that are coming up. Avoid rhyming off a list of all the day's programming – instead tell people what the next scheduled thing is (e.g. there will be an ejection seat at the demo stage in 15 minutes), point out things of special interest (e.g. if you have a family with young children and there is a special activity for them, let them know about it) and remind them where/how they can see the full list of the activities (on their maps and/or the tv at the front desk).

Remind the group that there are also feedback forms at the entrance if they'd like to leave a comment and encourage them to share their photos on our social media pages (Twitter tag is #avspacemuseum).

Thank the group again and wish them a lovely rest of their visit.

General Guided Tour


Dreams (mythology and folktales) led to more concrete imaginings (e.g. DaVinci's drawings – note he did not experiment) which led to eventual experimentation (e.g. Mongolfière brothers, Cayley etc…) which leads to Wright brothers, and in Canada the A.E.A and the Silver Dart.

Dreams were not only about flying but also about venturing into space / looking at the night sky and trying to understand the origins of life.

Imagining flight/space travel / the universe and the origins of life crosses cultural barriers: in Canada alone there are various First Nations groups such as the Haida (stories of the Raven), and the Voyageurs with the Flying Canoe. Elsewhere there were stories like Jules Verne's (the Albatross) and even the first science fiction writer – Cyrano de Bergerac with his Comical History….

Experimentation took many forms and happened very early on and in many countries (King Bladud's tower jumping, Montgolfière Bros., Cayley, Langley etc…)

Early Aviation

Segue from your introduction into the display behind you. This area serves to highlight the story of aviation before aircraft because many people dreamed of flying like birds, long before anyone figured out how to do it.

As a segue you can use inventors to link Leonardo to the quest to achieve flight. For the next 400 years, from Leonardo's day to the Wright Brothers, many different individuals tried many different designs attempting to achieve the dream of flight. Gliders, kites, ornithopters, flying buggies – just about everything you could imagine.

A.E.A. Silver Dart


[Position the group between the Silver Dart and the Blériot so you can talk about both from one position and, if appropriate to the group, show the video of trial and error.]

[NB: the Silver Dart area will receive a facelift at somepoint in 2015-2016 so this space and the interpretation around it may change. This document will be updated when this happens.]

The Aerial Experiment Association was a group of like-minded inventors formed by Alexander Graham Bell after the encouragement (and financial support) of his wife Mabel. The group was made of Bell, J.A.D. McCurdy, Glenn Curtiss, Frederick W. "Casey" Baldwin, and Thomas Selfridge.

Bell, like Da Vinci was interested in many subjects – he was curious and he was a problem-solver from an early age (at 12 he noticed how hard it was to get the husks off grains of wheat and so he went home and invented a machine to do it more easily/faster).

Famous for the telephone, Bell did a lot of work in other areas, including on improving methods of communication for deaf and hearing impaired people. His mother was deaf and so was his wife Mabel, and both his father and grandfather had done a lot of scientific research into voice and sound which he carried on. Helen Keller was sent to him so he could teach her to communicate using a method his father had developed and the two became life-long friends.

The Silver Dart was one of 4 designs created by the A.E.A.: the first was the Red Wing which was flown in 1908 by Casey Baldwin. Although this flight took place in the United States, it made Baldwin the first Canadian (and also first British subject) to pilot a heavier-than-air craft. The second design built was the White Wing and this was followed by the June Bug and finally the Silver Dart. Each aircraft built upon the previous design to improve it.

When the Silver Dart took off from the frozen Bras d'Or Lake on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia on February 23, 1909, it became the first time powered, controlled, flight in Canada.

The aircraft is a "canard" design meaning that the elevator is in front; and the hinged wing-tip ailerons provid lateral stability and control. The propeller is a "pusher" meaning it is behind the pilotThe aircraft is made with friction tape, bamboo, wire, and wood. The wings are coated in a rubberized silk used for hot air balloons (the Museum example is covered in doped linen).

Explanation of doping: Doping is a process of applying a chemical (in liquid form) to fabric for the purposes of stiffening /strengthening it – it also makes it waterproof. Different chemicals have been used over the years and continues to be used today for fabric-covered aircraft although improvements have been made (newer chemicals are less flammable and we have improved safety procedures like using ventilators so avoid inhaling it).

While most of the aircraft in our Collection are original, a few are restorations built using parts of several of the same aircraft and this one is a replica. The original Silver Dart was destroyed on a later flight in the United States. The one we have on display was built for the 50th anniversary celebrations. It was flown at Baddeck but crashed due to high winds and later repaired. Another replica was built in 2009 for the 100th anniversary and was flown in Baddeck by former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason. That replica is currently on display at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.

Blériot XI


Point out the Blériot XI. This is another aircraft from the early aviation era and an interesting example because it show how the aviation industry took off in relatively short order after the Wright Brother's initial flight.

A single-engine monoplane designed and built in 1908 by pioneering French aviators Louis Blériot and Raymond Saulnier, this aircraft featured wings covered in linen (although on display uncovered), and an oak and poplar structure that was structurally strong despite having a fragile appearance.

Its first flight was on January 23, 1909 and 6 months later, it was flown by Louis Blériot himself when he made the first ever airplane flight across the English Channel. (July 25, 1909)

It was the first aircraft put to military use by France and Italy in 1910 and subsequently by Britain in 1912. At the start of First World War, the French air force contained eight squadrons of Bleriots and the Royal Flying Corps flew several in France with the expeditionary force. The Italians had Bleriots when they entered the war.

The Museum's Blériot was built, from locally-available plans, by California Aero Manufacturing and Supply Company (San Francisco) in 1911, for John W. Hamilton. It is believed to be the first California-built airplane to fly.

Following a series of accidents, the aircraft was placed in storage in 1911. James Nissen and J. Mathiesen of San Jose, California purchased it in 1953. Between 1953 and 1971, the aircraft was partially restored and was displayed at several air shows across Southern California. The Museum acquired it in 1971.

[Bring your group to the First World War display, specifically, to the Curtiss JN-4 "Canuck".]

Curtiss[1] JN-4 "Canuck"


Introduce the First World War briefly and point out that there is only a brief span of time between the dawn of aviation and this conflict. Initially, very few military men felt that aircraft would play a role in warfare with the possible exception of reconnaissance gathering. As the technology advanced however, this mentally changed.

This is the JN-4 "Canuck", a First World War training aircraft. It first flew in January of 1917. People in the group may have heard of anaircraft called "The Jenny" which was a similar, American version of the same aircraft. However, the JN-4 "Canuck" is not a modification of the American aircraft but rather both aircraft are modifications of a previous Curtiss design, the JN-3. Some of the differences between the models include the steering control (the Canadian model has a stick control vs the American model's steering wheel) and ailerons on both the upper and lower wings (the American version has ailerons only on the upper wings). The Canadians believed that having ailerons on both sets of wings provided a higher degree of lateral control.

Visitors may be interested to know that there was a fair amount of pilot training taking place in Canada (not at the outset of the war, but later, as time went on) and there was even an agreement to send pilots down to Texas for training during the winter. There was however, a desire to be able to hold winter training in Canada so in 1917, a small group stayed behind to work with the "Canuck" on skis.

The "Canuck" is known for achieving a long lists of "firsts": first aircraft to cross the Canadian Rockies, first aircraft to be mass-produced in Canada and first to deliver air mail in Canada (from Montreal to Toronto in June 1918), first aerial survey, first ski flying and first to be exported in large quantities

After the war, this particular aircraft was used in civilian service (used by barnstormers to perform public stunts) and was purchased in 1926 by an individual who didn't actually use it much – it was left hanging from the roof of his barn for over 30 yrs before the Museum purchased it in the 1960s and restored it. We've left off some areas so that you can see inside the aircraft and gain an understanding of how the aircraft was built – point out some of the controls that are visible. The paint and black cat insignia is that of No. 85 Canadian Training Squadron.

Junkers J.I


Manufactured in 1917, the Junkers J.I was developed for low-level, front-line observation. It was the first all-metal aircraft to go into series production anywhere in the world. The completely armoured nose-capsule of 5-mm chrome-nickel sheet-steel enclosed the engine and crew compartment. The strength of its metal structure eliminated the need for external bracing wires typical of other biplanes of the time.Its weight, combined with the relatively heavy metal construction, resulted in a fairly slow aircraft but provided effective protection against ground-fire.

The Museum aircraft is the only surviving Junkers J.I. and was manufactured in 1918, and sent to Canada from Dieppe on the SS Venusia in May 1919, as a war trophy. The aircraft was assembled and put on display to the public in Toronto at the Canadian National Exhibition in August 1919. In 1939, it was transferred from Camp Borden to the Aeronautical Museum. It was later moved to the Canadian War Museum's warehouse, and was transferred to this Museum in 1969.