After more than two years, The Exploration Place in Prince George has reopened to the public. Upon being the first museum in Canada to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Exploration Place decided to use the time to undergo its first major renovation in two decades to adapt to a changing world.
“When the lens of True Reconciliation is applied to museums it is clear that our industry is in a challenging time,” said Tracy Calogheros, CEO, The Exploration Place. “The Exploration Place has always worked hard to be mindful of our responsibilities to our community, respectful of our partners and common histories and as such, we wanted to rethink what our museum could be and what it can bring to the table for our visitors and civil society at large. This renovation has allowed us to create an immersive, beautiful space that is contemporary, safe for everyone and open to continual evolution.”
The project sought to focus on Indigenous history and reconciliation and concern for the planet with a new understanding of the risk of novel disease transmission in high-touch indoor spaces that are characteristic of museums and science centres. To assist with the renovation and adaption costs, Northern Development’s board approved a $291,605 Cultural Infrastructure grant in February 2021.
“This is an amazing place,” said Chief Dolleen Logan, Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, at the grand opening event. “We’ve had an amazing relationship with The Exploration Place, the City and Regional District [of Fraser-Fort George]. For Truth and Reconciliation, we’ve had it and the relationship is continually growing.”
Before they began their renovation project, The Exploration Place first completed a thorough expansion and adaptation plan. This exercise allowed them to develop an intentional, comprehensive business plan to guide their actions and ensure that the physical changes to their space aligns with where the organization wants to go.
To help alleviate some of the costs associated with creating a business plan while the facility was closed to the public, Northern Development provided a $10,000 Capital Investment Analysis grant.
“Northern Development Initiative Trust is the organization that put the first money into this project,” said Calogheros at the opening event. “They invested in our business case and then they backed that up with putting the money in to do the first bit of work that we were doing in here. We’re a charity. We couldn’t go too far out on a limb with funds and we were trying to piecemeal things together as funding became available. If it hadn’t been for the Northern Development Initiative Trust, I don’t think we would all be standing here right now.”
The Exploration Place’s renovation includes dramatic improvements to the atrium, enlarged space for travelling exhibits, a new commercial kitchen that serves a variety of food and drink and a revamped gift shop. Together, these improvements help make the facility a cornerstone attraction for the local tourism economy, improve quality of life for residents and creates dozens of new jobs.