Nature museum renovations nearing completion

After four years of construction, the Canadian Museum of Nature has finally fixed a date for the completion of its massive renovation.

"Please mark your calendars for May 22, 2010, when you will be invited to join in celebrating the reopening of this fully renewed Victoria Memorial Museum Building," announced Joanne DiCosimo, president of the Centretown-based museum, at its annual public meeting on Wednesday.

The construction – which includes revamping the central core, west and east wings –  was undertaken to improve the historic building's infrastructure.

The museum, located at Metcalfe and McLeod streets, has remained mostly open during the construction, and attendance numbers are up since the west wing was completed in 2006, DiCosimo noted.

Vice-president Maureen Dougan said the museum's makeover, so far, is on time and on budget. Officials have tendered 97 per cent of the project, and 77 per cent of the work is complete.

"It's been a long and complicated process," said Dougan, adding that the building's heritage status has posed particular challenges. In some cases, the need for restorations only became that when walls were pulled apart and workers were able to see the state of structures hidden behind.

The Victoria Memorial Museum Building has a rich history. It was opened to the public in 1912, and when the Parliament Buidlings were destroyed by a fire in 1916, the country's MPs convened at the museum for the next four years.

Currently, construction is being done to restore the atrium.

"This is painstaking work," said Dougan. "It is extremely detailed fine work. It's not something you can rush and it's not something you want to rush."

Dougan said that although the renovation has been challenging, she expects area residents will realize the long wait was worth it when a beautifully restored building is unveiled in 2010.

"We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel."