January 1, 2018 4:12 pm
Updated: January 1, 2018 4:16 pm

New Royal Alberta Museum to finally open in 2018

The exterior of the new $375.5 million Royal Alberta Museum in downtown Edmonton. August 16, 2016.

Vinesh Pratap, Global News

A new year can signify new beginnings, and that’s what the Royal Alberta Museum expects from 2018.

Story continues below

Museum staff have been working for a couple of years to pack up and move hundreds of thousands of artifacts from its Glenora location to the new museum downtown. Executive director Chris Robinson says there are 2.4 million pieces in the museum’s collection and about 400,000 are now downtown. Even though the museum is moving into a new space that’s twice the size of the old one, staff still have to be selective about what they can display in their 84,000 square feet of gallery space.

“We put 580 objects on display already out of the 5,300, so clearly there’s some more work to do there. We’ve got most of the 80-plus media pieces ready to go and we clearly have a lot more packing and moving to do as well,” Robinson said, while being careful not to make promises about a specific date for a grand opening. “So 2018 will be a big year for us and we are looking forward to it, I’m just not going to predict when in 2018 (we will open the museum).”

With so many big new projects in the downtown core — the new arena and surrounding ICE District developments, the Art Gallery of Alberta, the library renovation, and LRT construction, to name a few — the museum may have been lost in the shuffle in the last few years. However, Robinson expects 2018 to be a “banner year” for the museum and its shiny new building will play a significant role.

“There are some things in the architecture that recognize the more granular street pattern that Edmonton used to have downtown, avenues and streets that have disappeared,” Robinson said. “There’s an acknowledgement of the post office that used to be on this site. But I think, more importantly, great museums have great collections. We will tell a history of Alberta through the Royal Alberta Museum that you won’t get anywhere else and that’s because it’s based on the collections that our curators have assembled over the past 50 years.

“Some of the things that people are familiar with from Glenora, we have put them on display, things like some of the Wild Alberta dioramas, in an entirely different context, but we recognize that those are very popular with people, so those are out,” Robinson said. “We have also added a children’s gallery, something we didn’t have in the past.”

The children’s gallery is one that Robinson thinks young visitors will find particularly exciting. He describes it as a “digital sandbox” with layers of information, a concept he couldn’t even wrap his mind around until he saw it in action.

“Children have this opportunity in this sandbox to create snow-capped mountains, lakes, rivers, an active volcano, they can make it rain, there’s a thunderstorm going on, it was pretty amazing.”

The old museum opened in December 1967 and closed in December 2015. Earlier timelines pegged the new museum’s opening for early 2018, but that appears to be unlikely.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.