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Finally, Ottawa’s shrine to Canadian invention looks the part

Ivan Semeniuk, The Globe and Mail
November 13, 2017

After a three-year closure and $80-million makeover, the Canada Science and Technology Museum aims to be an irresistible blend of past, present and future

The elegant telescope resting in its humidity-controlled case is farther from home than its maker would have likely ever imagined. When Eustachio Divini of Bologna put the finishing touches on the astronomical device around 1665, this part of Canada lay at the edge of the known world as far as Europe was concerned.

Yet, in the newly refurbished Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, the telescope is fulfilling its original purpose: impressing onlookers with its ornamented appearance and the allure of a powerful and revealing technology.

“It’s a showpiece”, said Marvin Bolt, an expert in early telescopes and a curator at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. “A lot of these telescopes were made to be looked at rather than looked through.”

Dr. Bolt was in town last week just to see the instrument, on loan from the MuseoGalileo in Florence, Italy, and to witness its installation.

Sporting a hard hat and safety vest, he was getting a sneak preview of the Ottawa facility, following its three-year closure and an $80-million makeover.

The change marks a turning point for the federally funded museum, which was established in 1967 in a former commercial bakery some five kilometres from downtown.

For years, it was a favourite destination for local children and their parents looking for indoor fun during the long winter months.

But the building’s utilitarian exterior and a reluctance by administrators to invest too heavily in case it was one day given a more central location, meant that the museum never really looked the part of official shrine to Canadian inventiveness.

But in 2014, after mould was discovered and the building was shuttered for a down-to-the-bones renovation, the federal government committed to the site in a big way. When the museum’s doors reopen to the public this Friday, curators will be hoping that their offering of sleek interactive exhibits combined with unique historic artifacts will prove to be an irresistible blend of past, present and future.

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