You could feel the electricity in the air, although it had nothing to do with science and everything to do with the sheer excitement of seeing the Canada Science and Technology Museum back in business, on its 50th birthday.
Roughly 800 invited guests attended a grand reveal reception held Thursday at the national museum. It officially reopened its doors to the public today, on time and on budget, after being closed for three years due to massive and much-needed renovations. The building, originally a bakery distribution centre, had been falling apart and was discovered to have mould growing in its walls.
The new digs are dazzling, inside and out. The museum offers visitors access to cherished artifacts in an environment that's full of colour, sound and interactive exhibits, showcased in a much larger and more modern space.
The reopening was emotional for some museum staff, who revealed to OBJ.social that they were moved to tears of happiness.
Present for the reception was the museum’s director general, Christina Tessier, joined by Fern Proulx, acting CEO of Ingenium. It's the newly rebranded organization that oversees the science museum, along with the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
Attendees included Francis Pomerleau from Pomerleau, which was the construction manager of the project. Also seen was Canada's new chief science adviser Mona Nemer, a Canadian science professor specializing in cell research. Emceeing the formal part of the evening was well-known face Catherine Clark. She humorously advised guests against over-christening the new building with their cocktail drinks.
Science Minister Kirsty Duncan expressed how “absolutely thrilled” she was to be there. She made some brief remarks, along with Ottawa South Liberal MP David McGuinty.
“Science matters more than ever,” Duncan told the room. “It impacts every aspect of our lives.”
She shared with the audience her memorable childhood experience of visiting the museum while in Ottawa. She and her brother loved the place (particularly the locomotives) so much that they kept begging their parents to take them back before returning back to their home in Toronto.
“This has a really dear place in my heart, and in my family’s heart,” said Duncan, who talked about its ability to inspire our country’s future astronauts, engineers, doctors, nurses and researchers, who may someday contribute to addressing some of our most pressing challenges, such as climate change, food security and the search for dark matter.
Duncan was among those to stumble their way across the floor of the lopsided Crazy Kitchen, an optical illusion exhibit that's been a crowd favourite for years.
Ottawa engineer and entrepreneur Richard L’Abbé, co-founder of the now-sold Med-Eng Systems as well as OBJ’s 2003 CEO of the Year, was found speaking to several keen listeners about his extraordinarily fast Ford GT race car, which can reach speeds of 347 km/h. He’s loaned the gorgeous thing to the museum for it to display (it’s parked near an 1867 steam carriage and the first Ford-assembled car in Canada, dating back to 1904).
“It celebrates creativity, innovation and pushing the boundaries of technology,” L’Abbé explained. “I want as many kids to see this as possible. We want to excite young kids to go into science, technology, math and engineering.”
L’Abbé is also a partner in the Calabogie Motorsports Park.
So, what’s the car worth, Mr. L’Abbé?
“A lot,” he replied.
Out-of-town guests included former Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk, currently the chancellor of the University of Calgary. He holds the Canadian records for the longest space flight (187 days, 20 hours) and the most time spent in space (204 days, 18 hours).
Thirsk wasn't the only guest to travel out from Alberta. So did Baillie, a border collie and canine member of Canada Task Force 2 based out of Canmore. Her gear, on exhibit at the museum, is among the most advanced used by search-and-rescue dogs around the world.
The Canada Science and Technology Museum received $80 million in federal funding to renovate the building and exhibitions. Just to give you an idea of where that figure stands, the Canadian Museum of Nature's renewal project, completed in 2010, received $216 million in federal funding and National Arts Centre was allotted $225.4 million for its ongoing renovations.
“I’m amazed, I’m impressed, I’m so pleased with what the team did with the amount of money [they had to work with],” gushed Denise Amyot, who headed up the science museums from 2009 to 2013. She’s now CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada. "It's beautiful, so beautiful."