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Coronavirus: Kingston’s Murney Tower quiet on the outside, busy behind the scenes

Click to play video 'Things getting done at Kingston’s Murney Tower despite covid pandemic.' Things getting done at Kingston’s Murney Tower despite covid pandemic.
Despite COVID-19, work behind the walls of Kingston's historic Murney Tower is getting done.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the opening plans for many tourist attractions this year.

The Murney Tower in Kingston, for example, couldn’t open at all this season, but that doesn’t mean the waterfront fortress stayed quite.

The tower is a National Historic Site, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site and also the Limestone City’s oldest operating museum.

“We were really looking forward to our season opening, where we had lots of new exhibit ideas, new exhibitions, new artifacts that we wanted to put on display, and then COVID hit and all of those plans had to be postponed,” said Simge Erdogan, the tower’s manager and curator.

Click to play video 'Work continues on Kingston’s Murney Tower' Work continues on Kingston’s Murney Tower
Work continues on Kingston’s Murney Tower

The tower hasn’t had visitors for almost a full calendar year because it closed for the season last fall and was unable to reopen in spring due to COVID-19.

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Tower director Tabitha Renaud says it’s been an interesting past few months.

“COVID-19 has been a double-edged sword,” Renaud said. On the one hand, we’ve lost a lot of money in admissions and we’ve taken a real financial hit and we haven’t been able to engage with the public in the way we normally would. But on the flip side, the positive is that things are still going on behind the scenes.”

Renuad says the closure has meant being able to accomplish things that may not normally get done when you’re dealing with tourists. Another bonus is that grants to pay for summer students are continuing well into the new year.

Emma Binns, a fourth-year Queen’s University history and economics student, appreciates the extension.

“Yes, it’s definitely good. It’s giving me a little more time to get in-depth with the work that I’ve been doing, working with the staff here at Murney Tower, being able to come into the tower and actually being able to work with the artifacts,” Binns said.

Renaud is also pleased that those grants are continuing.

“This has been a really special opportunity — especially being able to extend our students in this way. It’s been really special that we’re been able to do a lot of the behind the scenes work in the museum. Even though we’ve been closed to the public things are still going on behind the walls essentially.”

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Click to play video 'Restoration work being done on Frontenac County Court House cupolas' Restoration work being done on Frontenac County Court House cupolas
Restoration work being done on Frontenac County Court House cupolas

2020 marks the 95th anniversary of Murney Tower as a museum.