Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History shutting down some beloved exhibits after 50 years

The Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History is saying goodbye to several beloved exhibits next week — some that have been around for more than 50 years.

Birds, mammals and geology exhibits will be removed next week

Taxidermied bears and wildcats are seen on display at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. The mammal exhibit, which has been in the museum for 50 years, will be removed next week. (Jeff Gray/Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History)

The Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History is saying goodbye to several beloved exhibits next week — some that have been around for more than 50 years.

The museum announced the changes on Facebook earlier this week, saying that it will be removing the birds, mammals and geology displays to make way for a new permanent gallery that will be unveiled in 2023.

That means visitors will have to say goodbye to the rock wall display, the puffins and eagles, the bobcats and lynx, and the bear that growls as people walk by.

"It was a little upsetting because when we were kids, we always went to the museum and it's just that long-standing display that's always been there," Stephanie Tanner said Saturday.

Stephanie Tanner's husband, Adam, and son, Mason, are seen at the dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History a few years ago. (Submitted by Stephanie Tanner)

Tanner, who lives in Mahone Bay, grew up visiting the exhibits with family and on field trips at school. Now she takes her own children about four times a year.

"Having kids of my own now, [those displays are] just the constant that they know is there."

Tanner is one of many people who was saddened by the upcoming changes.

The museum's announcement garnered more than 100 comments from people reminiscing about their visits and sharing their concerns.

A stuffed lynx is seen in a display case at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. (Jeff Gray/Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History)

"We feel those feelings, too," Jeff Gray, the curator of visitor experience and exhibits, told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Friday. 

"We are surrounded by [the exhibits] all the time and we certainly appreciate people's nostalgia for them."

The museum opened on Summer Street in Halifax in 1970. Gray said some of the exhibits to be removed were actually built into the museum in the late 1960s, and have deteriorated over the past 50 years.

He said it's time for new displays.

"We understand the powerful pull of nostalgia for those items and I think that's what a lot of people are the most intrigued by," he said. 

"It's not necessarily the actual things that they've seen, but how they felt or who they were with or the memories that they have during those times."

Gray said all the items being removed will be assessed and stored within the museum's collections. He said some pieces, like the stuffed puffins, could return in other exhibits over the coming years.

"This is not a demolition-and-destroy project," he said. 

The bear has become a staple at the museum, since it growls as people walk by. (Jeff Gray/Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History)

"It is about conserving our own history and the things that belong to Nova Scotians, but it's also a process of reinvigorating that space and making new experiences for museum visitors to come back and see again in the future."

Gray said the removal of these older exhibits will allow the museum to open temporary exhibits in 2022, before opening the new permanent gallery in 2023.

Bittersweet goodbye

Tanner said she's grateful her children were able to experience these exhibits and learn from them. 

She said her five-year-old son, Mason, even recognizes animals during outdoor hikes because of his visits to the museum.

"He's at the age now where he's learning and absorbing everything. He loves seeing the big stuffed birds and he can recognize a lot of them," she said. 

"We'll be out in the wild and he'll see a hawk go over and he's like, 'Mummy, remember this one?' and he can tell us the day we were at the museum and seeing it in the display."

Gulls and puffins are seen on display at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax. Jeff Gray, a curator at the museum, said the puffins could return in other exhibits in the future. (Jeff Gray/Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History)

The last chance to see these exhibits will be Thanksgiving Monday. The items will start to be removed next week.

Tanner said she's hoping to take her son and daughter to see the exhibits one last time this weekend.

She said this final visit will be bittersweet.

"It's sad to see them go, but it's exciting to see some new stuff coming in finally," she said.

A stuffed eagle is seen on display at the Museum of Natural History. Stephanie Tanner says her young son has learn about birds by visiting the display. (Jeff Gray/Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History)

Gray said the museum will remain open during the changes and admission will be by donation starting Tuesday.

He said more updates about future collections and exhibits will be announced later this month.

"Whether you're upset about the change or you're excited about the change, the fact that [people] even commented means that in some way we've had some impact on people's lives and that it means something to them," Gray said. 

"And I think that that's just been a really wonderful experience."

With files from Emma Smith, CBC Radio's Mainstreet

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