27 May 2014

New Brunswick Museum seeks $40-million expansion

Move from location in Market Square pondered as space doesn't meet current museum standards

CBC News

The New Brunswick Museum is pondering a move from its home in Saint John's Market Square and planning a $40 million addition to its storage facility on Douglas Avenue.

Jane Fullerton, the museum's chief executive officer, says the Market Square space limits what the museum can do.

"It doesn't meet what are considered current museum standards, neither of our buildings do," said Fullerton.

"And so when you're trying to borrow exhibitions from other locations, and they ask for facilities' information, we may or may not be able to meet their standards and that limits what we can do."

Fullerton says it's difficult to move large items in and out of the centre.

More than 1 million people have visited the museum since it opened in the Market Square location in 1994.

The museum's lease at the Market Square location expires in August. Fullerton wants the provincial government to issue a request for proposals to see if the existing space can be improved or another suitable space found.

The museum launched a series of public consultations on Monday to seek input on its future.

Included in those plans is the largest project in the museum's history — a $40-million addition to the Douglas Avenue facility where artifacts are stored.

"The collection centre was built in the 1930s, so it meets the standards of the 1930s," said Fullerton.

The facility houses hundreds of millions of dollars worth of artifacts, but doesn't have a fire suppression system, proper lab space or climate control.

"The collections are protected by the way we pack and store them, so we're protecting these items as much as possible," said Fullerton.

Rather than tear down the existing facility and build a new one, Fullerton says the sensible option is to add a 62,000- square-foot expansion to the building.

Carol Taylor has been visiting the museum all her life and hopes the upgrades come through.

"The Douglas Avenue facility is ready to fall down and has been for a number of years," said Taylor.

A fund-raising firm has been hired to look at possibilities and hear from residents.

"We want to know if the public is interested in this," said Fullerton.

Fullerton's public consultation tour continues in Fredericton tonight and then moves on to Grand Falls and Miramichi.

Fullerton says the project is in the early stages and she hopes to make progress by 2017 when the museum marks its 175th anniversary.