Diefenbunker launches $1.5 million reno

CARP – Many Canadians have used the COVID-19 downtime to do renovations around the home, and after a major funding announcement yesterday (Dec. 14) the Diefenbunker Cold War Museum will be getting in on the craze.

Kanata-Carleton MP Karen McCrimmon, Kanata-Carleton MPP Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Diefenbunker executive director Christine McGuire and Diefenbunker board president Susan McLeod hosted a funding announcement with the federal and provincial governments providing nearly $1.1 million for needed renovations expected to cost nearly $1.5 million.

The Government of Canada is investing $596,860 toward this project through the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada plan. The Government of Ontario is investing $492,410 and the Diefenbunker Museum is contributing $402,881.

““For more than 20 years, The Diefenbunker Museum has played a key role in telling an important part of our history and educating Canadians from across our country,” McCrimmon said from just inside the front doors to the underground bunker. “This investment will improve accessibility within and ensure that the site continues to serve Canadians with quality cultural and recreational infrastructure, for generations to come.”

The renovations will improve ventilation, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems while modernizing the 60-year-old washrooms and elevator to meet accessibility standards. All this work done retroactive to a former military installation not overly concerned with accessibility at the time it was originally built.

“I am very pleased to see our government is investing more than $490,000 towards the refurbishment of the Diefenbunker Museum, a wonderful part of our West Carleton community,” Fullerton said. “We appreciate the intrinsic value of this remarkable site, bringing to life the realities of the Cold War in Canada. I encourage locals and tourists to Ottawa alike to visit this unique historic site.”

McGuire spoke with West Carleton Online immediately following the announcement.

“It’s a critical piece of Canadian history,” McGuire said. “It’s a history lesson on our approach to emergency preparedness. Now more than ever, during these challenging times, it is so relevant to learn from this past that will help inform our future.”

McGuire says this funding is going to parts of the museum in dire need.

“This is very much an aging facility,” McGuire said. “It’s more than 60 years old. This money will go in to crucial mechanical work, plumbing, as you can imagine, 60-year-old plumbing can be difficult when you have more than 70,000 visitors come through this museum every year. Also there is air ventilation and greater accessibility work. Modernizing our freight elevator in to a passenger elevator as well as creating new ramps and improving accessibility is key to this infrastructure funding.”

McGuire says this funding and the work it will get done gets the museum one step closer to permanent sustainability.

“We won’t just survive as we get through these challenging times,” McGuire said. “But this investment will help us thrive as an organization and an important community destination, not only for Ottawa, but Canada and around the world.”

McGuire says the funding announcement shows the museum is also investing in its future, contributing more than $400,000 to the cost of the renovations.

“The bunker is making the investment too,” McGuire said. “We can do that because of the success of the last five years.”

McGuire says the pandemic has been a challenge for them like it has been for any business that creates its revenue by hosting people. At the onset of the pandemic, the Diefenbunker closed its blast doors, but eventually came up with a plan to open safely under Ottawa Public Health guidelines, re-opening on July 8.

They’ve limited the number of visitors, created a one-way route and installed sanitation stations around the bunker. The museum has promoted itself during the pandemic by re-assuring visitors it was ready when ever they felt ready to visit.

“It’s been challenging but our staff have done an amazing job putting safety first,” McGuire said.

The museum is open regular hours, Wednesday to Sunday until Dec. 21 when it will close for the week. For more information, find museum hours here.