Visitors are cramming into the newly opened Royal Alberta Museum, with the museum’s executive director saying more than 23,000 people had passed through the doors between its grand opening Wednesday at noon and closing on Saturday night.
Chris Robinson said the museum has seen a “comfortable pace” of visitors, with a maximum capacity of 2,500 during the first few days of opening.
The museum will be free until Monday night and Robinson said he expects most of the free tickets issued by the province to be used before then.
“We do expect to reach the numbers we had intended, somewhere around upwards of about 40,000 over the whole six days,” Robinson said.
“I’m hoping the visitation continues. It won’t continue at this scale – this is a grand opening – but after that we will continue, I hope, to have a large visitation.”
The museum opened to much fanfare on Wednesday, seven years after it was initially opened and with a price tag of $375.5 million dollars. The province said the museum came in on budget. The 82,000-square-foot facility is about twice the size of the old museum in Glenora and holds approximately two million items.
Juanita Young, her husband and daughter snagged free tickets to the museum on Sunday.
“We think it’s a really good opportunity to bring our daughter for the educational side of this,” she said.
“It’s spectacular. It’s out of this world, a fabulous facility. We’re really loving it here today.”
Young said the family planned to spend all of Thanksgiving Sunday at the museum.
“Our daughter is really into bugs so we’re excited to get into there. She’s having a lot of fun here today in the children’s side.”
As a child, Jessica Clark used to visit the old museum every Sunday with her aunt; when the new museum opened, they decided to make it a family affair and check it out.
“We’re really excited to see what they’ve changed for the museum and coming here, there is a lot more than what there was in the other one,” she said.
“It’s bigger. There’s more history. We just went to the human history [hall] and there’s way more than there was last time.”
Clark said visitors could spend the whole day at the new attraction.
“I’m really happy with it. I’m really excited to see the rest of what they have to offer.”
Robinson said no major issues have arisen so far, though he jokingly said the café did run out of bison craft beer chili at one point, and he adds the museum “staffed up” for the opening to keep things running smoothly.
“There have been line-ups to get into the children’s gallery and the bug gallery. It is proving very, very popular so there’s a little bit of a delay to get in there,” he said.
Robinson said there are still roughly half a million items at the Glenora site to move to the downtown location. He estimates it will take another year before everything is out of the old museum site.
“There’s a lot of packing, a lot of ensuring that everything has gone through conservation before it’s packed,” he said.
“It has a barcode put on it. There’s a lot of careful packing that goes in to ensure those things move safely. It is a lot of the larger, more complicated pieces that are remaining.”
Free admission to the museum continues until Monday night.