Canada Science and Technology Museum set to reopen

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Science, Eh?
Buzz is building cuz revamped museum will soon open its doors

Compiled by Stephen Johnson
Images courtesy of Canada Science and Technology Museum

Looking forward to the reopening of the Canada Science and Technology Museum this November? The countdown is on and buzz is building. After 50 years at the same location, 2421 Lancaster Road, the beloved attraction is ushering in an exciting new era and it promises to be a magnet for people of all ages who are curious about Canada’s scientific and technological heritage.

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In 2014 the museum was closed after airborne mould was discovered, making it unsafe for visitors and workers. Rather than relocate, the decision was made to renovate. Now, “It is literally a new museum in that we took everything down to the beams and posts,” says Alex Benay, former president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation.

In the past three years, the site has undergone an $80 million, federally funded retrofit and update. When the museum reopens, it will feature over 7,400 m2 (80,000 square feet) of new exhibition space, including an 850 m2 (9,200 square foot) temporary exhibition hall for travelling exhibitions from around the world.

The first thing to greet visitors will be a facade and LED light tunnel capable of showing videos and images. Inside, there will be core spaces devoted to specific themes: Technology in our Lives, Moving and Connecting, Transforming Resources, Creating and Using Knowledge, and the Children’s Gallery with an Artifact Alley acting as the spine. Augmented reality will be featured in Artifact Alley, allowing for an interactive experience. There will also be a demonstration stage, classrooms and maker space in keeping with the theme of interactivity.

Long-time fans of the museum will be happy to know some things will not change. “Whenever we did surveys about what people wanted to keep from the old museum, the top-rated attraction was the Crazy Kitchen,” Benay mentions. “The trains are also well-loved.”

The Crazy Kitchen and trains may be about all that people will recognize. Benay discovered a number of different sources for inspiration during the planning stages of the project. “I had a chance to meet Dr. David Baird, who was the first director of the museum in 1967,” he comments. “The advice he gave for the new museum was to keep it alive in that it should engage people and just not be static displays of artifacts.”

Another spark would come from Benay’s son. “My twelve-year-old was working on a school project and asked me for my credit card,” he laughs. “I obviously asked him why he
wanted my credit card. He said he was going to hire someone for $5 online to do a PowerPoint that would make his presentation great. At first, I told him to go to his room to work on the project, but then started to reflect that the younger generation interacts with the world in a much different way. They are the first true digital citizens and our museum must reflect that to engage younger people.” He pauses. “I still did not give him my credit card!”

Not surprisingly, Benay sees digital interaction as the way of the future for the museum. “Whether that is developing mobile games that can be downloaded or virtual exhibitions, museums today extend far beyond their physical walls. There is an opportunity to collaborate with people all over Canada and the world.”

The museum has found creative ways to stay relevant while its doors have been closed. Many people will have seen the pop-up science mobile crew offering up experiments and activities at fairs and community events through the capital region. Museum staff members have developed exhibitions that have travelled across Canada. Last summer, the museum even co-hosted an event at which skateboarding demos and food trucks were the order of the day. The event produced the largest joint mural ever painted in the nation’s capital.

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Besides the museum opening, a new storage facility and science park are also in the works. The science park will utilize the large open space in front of the museum. The plan is currently in the design phase and members of the public will be given opportunities to offer their feedback.

 
 
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