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Royal Alberta Museum officially opens in Edmonton

It’s the day history buffs in our province have been waiting for as the Royal Alberta Museum makes its debut.

Largest museum in Western Canada will welcome 40,000 visitors over next 6 days

Min Dhariwal recaps the grand opening of the new museum in downtown Edmonton. 1:22

After three-and-a-half years of construction, the $375-million Royal Alberta Museum opened to the public at noon Wednesday.

Visitors were greeted by an Albertosaurus roaring through the lobby and a 100-year-old Edmonton biplane, props to our capital aviation history, suspended above and a giant bronze woolly mammoth which tips the scales at over 3,600 pounds.

"There's a sweet spot there; you can see everything unfold," said executive director Chris Robinson.

"You can stand there and see that there's a gift shop and a cafe; there's the entrances to the natural history hall, the human history hall, the feature exhibit hall. So it begins in the lobby."

Executive director Chris Robinson describes what the new Royal Alberta Museum will offer visitors. 1:13

Deeper inside, there's an air fart machine in the children's gallery which is sure to amuse.

'Something here for everybody'

That's where Kim Ceaser and her young daughter Megan spent most of their day. The massive space with floor-to- ceiling windows is a bright spot with something for kids of all ages.

"There's definitely something here for everybody to enjoy," said Ceaser, one of the thousands of people to secure a ticket online for Wednesday's grand opening.

"I was able to get tickets for today and then I'm coming back with my whole family, because my boys are in school and my husband's working so we're coming back on Monday, all of us will be back."

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      Next door is the ever-popular bug gallery, which will get you up close to plenty of creepy-crawlers, all behind the safety of protective glass of course.

      From butterflies to the Mexican redknee tarantula, the museum has collected invertebrates from all corners of the world. 

      "This is where we're trying to support and showoff and celebrate the little creatures that run the world," said Peter Heule, live-animal supervisor at the museum.  

      "I'm able to get Malaysian beetles from Taiwanese suppliers," he said. "I mean I got giant African millipedes from a fellow in the U.K., so where ever possible if these things are being bred in captivity, they don't need to be pulled out of the wild."  

      The human history hall tells more than a 150 stories including the rise of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty and the enduring love affair Albertans have with their pick-up trucks, Robinson said.

      Edmonton architect Donna Clare designed the building.

      "When my parents took me as a young girl to the then-Provincial Museum of Alberta, it showed me that Alberta was important and that its people — people like me — could dream and dream big," she recalls.

      Who doesn't love a mammoth? You can find one in the museum's gift shop. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

      "It showed me that I could have courage and be proud of this province and it showed me that we had so much to learn from the Indigenous people."

      The museum is steeped in the cultures, languages and objects of the First Nations and Métis people of Alberta and admission is free to Indigenous visitors "in the spirit of reconciliation and to honour this unique relationship," Robinson said.

      Robinson said he was often asked over the last three years if the wildlife dioramas would make the move to the new downtown digs.

      "We brought down eight of our greatest hits, if you will, and we've complemented them with nine new dioramas," he said.

      Two whitetail deer battling during rut and a lynx zeroing in on a hare are just two moments frozen in time featured at the new Royal Alberta Museum.

      You can see more from inside the new Royal Alberta Museum on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and Thanksgiving Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV.
      A lynx and a hare featured in one of the dioramas in the Wild Alberta exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum. (Terry Reith/CBC)