Renovations at the Museum are in full swing

Lynsey Kitching

 

The Dinosaur Discover gallery has been a hub of activity lately as council has officially approved all of the renovations. The main obstacle was getting approval for the new building to be created to house the dinosaur, which was wheeled into town in August.

In order for the building to be approved, it had to go through a public consult because the building is going to be bigger than what the bylaw would have allowed for a residential area.

The consult went really well with the only concern surrounding noise during the construction. Rich McCrea says, “It was greatly positive, that is nice to see.”

With approval in hand, the delivery of the materials for example the steel frame for the building, arrived on Dec. 12, however, it is too cold to pour the concrete. “We were hoping that would be done in the summer,” says McCrea continuing, “We do have a fence up now, which will protect the area. You need to have a fence during construction and we were going to do one anyway, so, we put that up first. It saves us an expense.”

McCrea explains the fence is necessary to protect the artifacts and that it stands six feet tall, the maximum height allowable. “We do still get vandalism here. We don’t want to look like an armed camp, but there are real security issues. We had someone try to break in a few years back, where they tried to pry a door knob off hooked up to a vehicle. The fence will go a long way to take care of things like that. We will also be adding some more cameras.”

A feature the new building will not have is windows and McCrea explains this also for security reasons.

On top of security, the museum also has to keep in mind weather damage to the artifacts, as they are staying outside all winter. McCrea explains they have safe guarded the bones to the best of their abilities. “It’s not good for it, but it’s been out in the weather… well, in reality it hasn’t because it’s been underground, but we’ve given it a pretty good cocoon. It’s wrapped in plaster and soaked burlap, so it’s essentially a shell. It should give it protection, but it is still susceptible to freeze thaw, from the moisture that was inside. That is the real problem; if you have some water inside the bones, it freezes and propagates cracks. You don’t want to do that too many times.”

The final outside facelift the building has received was the paint job. “That orange paint job…Holy smokes. Lisa and I were walking up Bergeron cliffs and we could easily spot the building from that far away. Now it’s less aesthetically offensive,” says McCrea.

So with the ground frozen, attention has been turned to the renovations inside of the building. One big component, which was recently completed, was the installation of the new furnaces. These furnaces are 95 percent efficient and McCrea says they will cut down the carbon footprint, as well as the annual operational costs for the building. McCrea says, “Through the partnership with the district we replaced all the furnaces. It is going to be more efficient,” he continues, “Because it’s a district building they are essentially our landlords. They had to change them out because there were some carbon monoxide issues, so it wasn’t much of a choice. We had allocated money for that and we provided the bulk of the funding. It’s nice that we can help improve a building we are occupying. The district gives it to us for $1 a year. We’ve maintained it in many ways.”

These new furnaces will really help with the energy efficiency of the building, however, there is still more that can be done to make this building energy efficient. McCrea says, “We have looked at many options to make the new and the old building as energy efficient as possible. We do want to explore options such as solar heating. We even looked at photo-reactive paint for the new paint job to the old building. But this can be done as a follow-up project as the funding we have will only allow us to erect this 4,200 foot squared structure.

Other potential follow-up projects could include changing out the lighting. McCrea explains, “We have looked at geothermal heating as an option, but results from a District study were not encouraging. The technology has advanced so this may be something that has to be looked at again. We looked at all of these options not only to be environmentally friendly, but because anything we do to make the building more efficient to heat or power will reduce our operational costs. Another future ‘green’ project we are looking at is replacing all of the T12 light fixtures in the building with LED light fixtures. This would not only cut down our power costs, but would also decrease the amount of toxic materials such as mercury going to landfills from burnt out fluorescent bulbs.”

Though these projects will help in the long run, the start up costs are really what is holding them back. “We are working already preparing these ‘green’ upgrades as a future project for which we would have to raise funds. For instance, just to install the LED light fixtures would cost well over $100,000. To install a geothermal heating system would cost over $500,000 (almost the entire budget of the present renovation project) and it was uncertain if it would work here,” explains McCrea.

Other new changes to the inside of the building include getting rid of the basketball painted lines on the hardwood floors in the show room. The next item on the list is to upgrade the washroom facilities and ensure there is good handicap access. “It hasn’t been an issue yet, but we’re getting more and more visitors every year. We’re happy to do it, we want to make sure everyone has a good experience,” he says.

One thing that will help visitors have a good experience at the museum is being able to find it in the first place. More specifically, the museum has plans to erect a giant sign. McCrea explains, “When you come to the museum there is no sign indicating this is the museum. We made a presentation to council in the spring, about the kind of sign we wanted. It isn’t just a simple sign, a metal thing, it’s going to be a concrete dinosaur track replica and it’s going to be pretty big, three metres tall by three metres wide. We’re hoping to have some lighting as well.”

The building occupied by the museum has come a long way since it started, and as McCrea explains there have been some positive changes. “I think the museum has done rather well in converting a derelict building into a positive feature for the community and region and which also attracted the Community Garden to this area, and is also one of the few places in town where local artisans can display and sell their artwork and crafts. Now instead of the area around the museum being a place for teens and young adults to hold drinking parties and for others to conduct drug deals (Lisa and I broke up a few such transactions in the parking lot when the museum just moved in) it is now more wholesome and I think this is why we had such overwhelmingly positive comments for the variance so that we could put in the new building.”