MacBride gets $6 million for massive expansion

Whitehorse’s MacBride Museum of Yukon History is getting cash from the territorial and federal governments so it can more than double in size.

Whitehorse’s MacBride Museum of Yukon History is getting cash from the territorial and federal governments so it can more than double in size.

Representatives from the municipal, territorial and federal governments made the $6 million announcement Tuesday afternoon.

The expansion, which will connect to the current main building downtown, will add 1,700 additional square metres to the museum, spread out over a new three-storey building.

“It’s been a longstanding hope of ours to expand so we can tell more Yukon stories to more people, Yukoners and visitors alike,” said Keith Halliday, chair of the the museum’s board of directors. (Halliday is a columnist with the News.)

The new building will have five galleries including a map room with 120 years worth of Yukon maps and a new home for Engine 51, one of the first locomotives on the White Pass and Yukon Railway. Other spaces will tell the stories of Yukon innovators.

The top floor will display the “overall theme of Whitehorse as a working town and the role that Whitehorse has played in the development of the Yukon,” executive director Patricia Cunning said.

The current building will be used for a much larger First Nations gallery.

More details about specific exhibits will come as the project gets up and running, Cunning said.

She estimates about 70 per cent of the museum’s 30,000-piece collection is currently in storage because there is not enough space to show it all off.

“Huge numbers of people who cared about the territory made an effort to donate things to us, to entrust them to us,” she said.

“I want to put them back in the public display, in the public domain, so that people can see them.”

The tender to build the new expansion is expected to go out in the next few weeks with construction starting sometime in the fall. The museum estimates it will take around 18 months to build the expansion.

The federal and Yukon governments each contributed $3 million to this stage of the project. Ottawa’s money comes from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund. The federal money needs to be spent by the end of this fiscal year. The territorial money is slated to follow after that.

“For more than half a century the museum has showcased our stories, our struggles and our successes,” said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

“The MacBride Museum is a living time capsule that chronicles being north of 60 in a special and meaningful way.”

Earlier this year the Yukon government gave the museum $450,000 to plan and design the expansion.

Premier Darrell Pasloski estimates construction will create 35 full-time jobs over the next two years.

“(Museums) do much more than just preserve the past. Museums and cultural spaces also play a significant role in revitalizing our present lives,” he said.

“Investments like the one we are announcing today are investments in the continuing economic growth of our tourism industry.”

The MacBride Museum opened in 1952. It runs year round and there are no plans to shut it down during the construction, Cunning said. About 25,000 people visit the museum each year.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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