Parks Canada unveils plans to store historical artifacts in new Gatineau storage facility

Park Canada
A rendering of the planned 88,000-square-foot storage facility in Gatineau.

Many of the country's priceless historical artifacts – and millions of other assorted bits – will be getting a new home in the National Capital Region, Parks Canada announced Tuesday.

The federal agency responsible for managing the country's archeological heritage released the design for a new storage facility to house 25 million historical and archaeological artifacts in their care.

The collection, which encompasses 11,000 years of human history, includes historical costumes, pre-contact Indigenous hunting tools, and ancient household objects.

Most of it, though, is stone chips from tools, shards of centuries-old ceramics and glass, nails and other fragmentary material. While not particularly exciting for the public, those artifacts are a valuable resource for researchers. All told, the collection includes 31 million objects.

Parks Canada 2
The interior of the planned storage facility in Gatineau.

And right now, 60 per cent of the collection is at risk, Parks Canada said.

The items in Parks Canada's care that are not already displayed in parks or historic sites are held in six storage facilities in cities across the country: Winnipeg, Ottawa, Cornwall, Quebec City and Dartmouth, N.S.

The existing facilities in all those cities except Dartmouth, Parks Canada said, do not meet the environmental and security standards set for the protection of the materials they hold.

The new 88,000-square-foot building to be constructed in Gatineau will provide modern climate control and protection, as well as easier access for researchers and the public, Parks Canada said.

The storage facility was designed by Montreal’s NFOE Architects as well as Moriyama and Teshima Architects, which has offices in Ottawa and Toronto.

The agency said the building is designed specifically to preserve the objects for the benefit of future generations.

About a sixth of the square-footage in the facility will be reserved for research and staff space, as well as for receptions and ceremonies. The purpose is to ensure Canadians maintain access to the collection after it is centralized near the capital.

The building will also be built to minimize its environmental footprint through use of energy-efficient building techniques and use of renewable energy.

Any objects currently on display across the country will stay there, Parks Canada said.

A review of the collection to determine which objects are worth moving will also take place, the agency said, while cautioning that such a review is a normal activity among collection institutions.

Artifacts will only be moved to the storage facility once it is completed, which is scheduled for 2022, Parks Canada said.

In earlier announcements, the agency had set the start date for construction in 2019, but construction is now estimated to begin in spring 2020.