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DesBrisay Museum unpacks, gets ready for future opening

by Keith Corcoran

DesBrisay Museum director Barb Thompson moves boxes as the museum prepares to reopen to the public.
 BRIDGEWATER - Artifacts and exhibits mothballed because of a major roof repair at the DesBrisay Museum are out of storage and emerging from their temporary homes of boxes and plastic.

 Staff at the town-owned museum and six workers borrowed for a couple of days from the parks department did some heavy lifting last week sorting the loads that came in from storage.

 "We're trying to get the offices and the gift shop and the main work area settled next week and then we'll work on the permanent exhibit room after that and get it installed," said Barb Thompson, the museum's director, dressed in a shirt and jeans as she too assisted with the laborious job ahead.

 Time the museum usually spends running its summer programs, giving school tours or organizing themed birthday parties is focused on getting the building back in order.

 Eight trucks worth of materials were moved in within a three-day period. Materials are throughout the hallways, leaving narrow paths within the Jubilee Road museum for people to manoeuvre.

 "And you can see how much there is," Ms Thompson said, pointing out the plastic-covered exhibits and labelled boxes.

 "It's everywhere."

 Six rooms worth of exhibits need to be installed in the Heritage Gallery. Volunteers will be called in to assist with unpacking the entire collection. The rooms and boxes are coded so staff knows where everything needs to go but everything will need to be recorded and checked for damage once it's unpacked.

 "It's a slow process," Ms Thompson said.

 What was once thought to be a routine $60,000 roof patching job escalated last year when the necessary work was found to be much more extensive.

 The cost of the entire project tripled to about $180,000 when the tab to move items and supplies in and out of storage and a water-damaged floor replacement was considered. Some of that cost was covered by the province.

 The museum closed to the public last October so the job could be completed.

 Eight months later the museum is still closed but the roof and floor jobs are done. A message on Bridgewater's web site targets an opening date sometime in mid-July.

 But Ms Thompson said she wants to see the front lobby cleared and exhibits installed in the permanent gallery before the doors open.

 "Until we do that, we can't open until everything's out of the hallway and it's safe."

 The time museum staff has spent in their temporary home at the town office has been put to good use. Ms Thompson said program planning for the next two years and ideas for new permanent exhibits, including one chronicling the history of Bridgewater and a Victorian children's gallery, has been sorted out.

 "We wouldn't have been able to do any of that if we had been open," she said. "It would have taken us much longer."

 Museum staff will be glad to resume business at the DesBrisay but being in the building is a positive first step, Ms Thompson suggests.

 "We've been impatient the last couple of weeks," Ms Thompson said with a smile. "It feels wonderful to be back, it really does."

posted on 06/24/08
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