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The Exploration Place receives $750K federal grant

The Prince George museum and science centre is expected to open in September, following an expanded renovation

Minister Harjit Sajjan was in Prince George on Thursday to announce $750,000 in federal funding for The Exploration Place’s ongoing renovation.

Sajjan, minister of international development and minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, announced the funding as part of $1.8 million for five culture and recreation projects across northern B.C. In addition, Sajjan announced $150,500 for the Northern B.C. Tourism Association to create an inventory of accessible tourism opportunities in the region.

“The Exploration Place is a great example of how local infrastructure supports our communities,” Sajjan said. “When it does (re)open, I think it will be an amazing place to visit.”

Supporting arts and culture venues like The Exploration Place also helps grow local economies by supporting tourism, he added.

Museum CEO Tracy Calogheros said The Exploration Place was informed it would receive the funding several months ago, and made the decision to expand their renovation project. The decision has meant that the museum had to push back its reopening date from June to September, she said.

The funding means the museum has been able to redo its roof, renovate the exterior, purchase commercial kitchen equipment for the Origins Kitchen and upgrade the museum’s mechanical systems, she said.

“I anticipate most construction will be done in July and then we’ll start on the exhibit work,” Calogheros said. “It’s totally worth the wait.”

Once the renovations are complete, the museum will feature a new gallery focused on glaciation and ice ages on the main floor, Origins Kitchen will serve food directly into the park but also provide a teaching kitchen for adult and youth cooking classes, dedicated gallery space for repatriated artifacts belonging to the Lheidli T’enneh and other northern B.C. Indigenous groups, a Mr. PG gallery, a larger space for travelling exhibits on the main floor, a “living wall” of plants in the atrium and plenty of other new features, Calogheros said.

“We function as a northern provincial museum,” Calogheros said.

The Exploration Place is looking to reach out to many immigrant and minority communities in northern B.C. to dedicate gallery space to telling their stories as well, she said. In addition, it is seeking to get designated as a zoo so it can increase the number of local animals it can feature.

What won’t be returning with be the museum’s childcare program. Instead, the museum is working with the Lheidli T’enneh on building a dedicated childcare centre next to the museum, Calogheros said.

The Exploration Place has been located on the site in Lheidli Tenneh Memorial Park since 1981 and hasn’t had a major renovation since 2000, she said.

“We were way overdue,” she said. “We didn’t have a renovation project on the books when we closed. But when we realized the amount of work we needed to do, it just made sense.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association of Northern B.C. also received $29,800 to upgrade the outdoor space at the Connections Clubhouse in Prince George. The Ride Burns Mountain Biking Association received $114,375 for improvements at the Boer Mountain Recreational site, the Village of McBride received $252,134 to upgrade the Bill Clark Memorial Park and Ball Diamond and the District of Houston received $656,250 towards improvements to 10th Street in downtown Houston.