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New Brunswick Museum staying put in Saint John


After years filled with COVID-19 closures and uncertainties surrounding its future, a light can now be seen at the end of the tunnel for the New Brunswick Museum.

The museum has announced plans to move forward with a revitalization project, awarded to architect group Diamond Schmitt, for its original home on Douglas Avenue in Saint John.

“That building has been ‘the museum’ for almost a century,” says New Brunswick Museum board chair Kathy Hamer. “To expand the building with modern 21st century architecture, which will allows us to one a museum under one roof, that’s the aspiration at this point.”

The current structure on Douglas Avenue will be revamped and expanded to nearly 165,000 square feet, which will lead to the demolition of five neighbouring properties. A park on the other side of the museum will remain untouched.

Hamer says while some sections of the building will have to come down, iconic parts of the original museum like the winding staircase and main entrance will remain as true as possible to its original look.

“The face of that building has really been the iconic face of the museum for many, many years,” Hamer says. “That’s [one of] the part we hope to salvage.”

The contents of the museum had been split between Douglas Avenue and an exhibit inside uptown’s Market Square for the past few years, with both permanently closing in fall of 2022. The artifacts will be stored in Saint John at a warehouse until the museum reopens to the public.

The goal is have the museum open during the first quarter of 2026, which Hamer admits is an ambitious goal.

“We feel it’s better to set an ambitious target,” Hamer says. “Because that keeps us moving towards something without losing momentum.”

The project is estimated to come in at a cost of $150 million, which will be partially funded by government programs. Much of the money will be raised through community fundraisers.

New Brunswick Historical Society president Greg Marquis admits he was surprised to hear the museum would stay on Douglas Avenue, but is looking forward to its return.

“We are the only province that has been without a museum that was operated for tourism,” Marquis says. “But also, the museum played a number of other roles in the community as well as a meeting space.”

Marquis notes having that meeting space has been missed in recent years.

“We are trying to rebound people coming back to Saint John and the uptown areas,” Marquis says. “I think we need that, and we need that space.”

Residents will have a chance to provide their input on the museum’s new look in a series of public engagement sessions to be held around the province. Officials are hopeful to begin those meetings in the early fall of 2023.

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