More than 35,000 Edmontonians visited the Royal Alberta Museum over the weekend to say goodbye to the building that has seen more than 14 million visits since it opened back on December 6, 1967. The numbers from this weekend speak to the impact the museum has had on the community:
“The museum saw 16,290 people in the first 24-hours alone, eclipsing the previous single-day attendance record of 13,212, which was set in 1974 with gear from the Apollo moon landings on display.”
In addition to one last look at the bug room, visitors had the opportunity to visit the “Goodbye, Hello” exhibit in the feature gallery where they could share a memory or write a message for the new building. They could also see a video overview of the new building that is currently under construction downtown.
The new building will be roughly twice the size, with more than 82,000 square feet of exhibition space. It is being built to the LEED Silver standard at a cost of $375.5 million, $253 million of which is coming from the Province with the rest coming from the Federal government. Construction began on February 7, 2014 and is expected to finish in mid-2016. The goal is to open the new museum to the public in late 2017.
While the new building will certainly be an exciting addition to the downtown arts district, it does raise the question of what will happen to the current building. There’s nothing wrong with it, aside from being too small to share the museum’s growing collection. Here’s what the FAQ says:
“There has been no decision on the future of the Royal Alberta Museum building when the existing museum closes. When determining the future use the general process is to first see if government still has a use for the building/property. If government doesn’t require the property then the municipality is consulted to see if they have a use for it. The building is offered to the public if neither levels of government have a use for the property. Although the museum will be closing its doors in December 2015, the building will still be occupied with staff and collections until likely Fall 2019, as it makes the massive move to its new location.”
So while there’s still time to determine its fate, it’s an issue we’ll have to address as a community soon. To learn more about the history of the museum, have a look at Then & Now feature and check out this article by Janet Vlieg:
“The first two decades of the museum’s existence saw new exhibits added in keeping with the original goals of preserving Alberta history. No admission fees were charged and the museum relied almost completely on provincial funding. Help for extras came in 1982 with a new fundraising support group, now known as Friends of Royal Alberta Museum.”
On Monday evening, the final day the museum was open, Sharon and I were able to attend the RAM: A Moving Tribute event as guests of the Friends of Royal Alberta Museum Society (FRAMS). It was an “evening of fond farewells to a beautiful building.” A well-dressed crowd gathered to hear some speeches, visit the galleries, and reminisce about their previous visits to the building.
Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, Minister of Culture & Tourism David Eggen, and City Councillor Scott McKeen were among those who brought greetings and reflected on their experiences in the museum. Guests could then explore the museum one last time, stopping perhaps to learn from the experts that were stationed throughout.
I didn’t grow up in Edmonton, so I don’t have the same memories of visiting as a kid. But I have enjoyed visiting in recent years and look forward to spend lots of time at the new building. Sharon does remember visiting as a child and was quite eager to visit the Wild Alberta Gallery one last time! We had fun exploring and adding our own messages to the wall in the feature gallery.
Thanks to FRAMS for having us! We look forward to visting the new museum when it opens on (or around) December 7, 2017. Can’t wait!