Museum unveils plan for $5M fossil gallery

By Teresa McDonald

Renovations to the Museum of Nature will include a $5 million new and improved fossil gallery that will be four times as large as the current dinosaur exhibit.

Set to open in 2005, the gallery is part of a $70-million plan, announced last month, to modernize the museum with new exhibits and a structural facelift.

“The changes will strike a balance between the museum’s heritage value and making it a 21st century institution,” says Gerry Potoczny, the museum’s renewal project manager. The Victoria Memorial Museum Building is the third most historic in Ottawa.

Part of the gallery will show life-size dinosaur models in a recreated scene of their natural habitat. The giant teeth-baring Daspletosaurus, which has greeted visitors in the museum’s atrium for the past year, will be part of the exhibit.

It will focus on the period when dinosaurs became extinct and mammals appeared. Studying this time frame can help us understand issues like climate change, explains Cecile Julien, the museum’s senior development officer. “Visitors to the museum will see the unusual creatures that emerged at that time and hopefully ask questions,” she says.

The museum also wants to add more trees, grass and flowers to its outside grounds. Potoczny says the museum hopes to take learning outside by allowing visitors to collect live specimens on the grounds and bring them inside to examine.

New state of the art technology is also included in the plans. One of the museum’s current problems is that 95 per cent of its collection is housed in Aylmer, Que. Creating a cyber bridge between the two sites using remote Internet access will uncover more of the museum’s resources for visitors.

John Dorner, principal of St. Anthony School on Booth Street, has accompanied students to the museum.“Any effort for more hands-on, interactive displays is very positive because it increases students’ interest in the topics.”

The museum’s new vision has been in the works for three years and includes plans for other exhibits like the Nature of Humans, Water and a Discovery Centre. Although museum officials have ideas about the look of new exhibits, nothing has been finalized. “We’re not sure how we’re going to accomplish all of this,” Potoczny says.

Designs for the architectural changes are expected in the fall.