Ottawa

Diefenbunker still needs $3M for repairs

The Diefenbunker still needs $3 million to bring its electrical, plumbing and information technology systems up to current standards, the Cold War museum's executive director says. 

Federal tourism grant helps but doesn't go far enough, Cold War museum says

The main tunnel to the Diefenbunker Museum in Carp. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Diefenbunker Museum still needs $3 million to bring its electrical plumbing and information technology systems up to current standards, its executive director says. 

The nearly 60-year-old Cold War-era shelter in Carp was built to house Canada's military and government leaders in the event of a nuclear attack, but as CBC has previously reported, today it has trouble keeping the toilets flushing.

Christine McGuire, executive director of the Diefenbunker Museum, describes the condition of the facility as "really dire."

The museum still requires $3 million for repairs despite receiving $400,000 Wednesday from a federal government tourism fund.

"We are so thrilled," McGuire said of the new funding on Wednesday. 

The money will go toward improving tourism services, youth programs and the infrastructure of the national historic site, she said. Currently, the Diefenbunker sees 80,000 visitors a year.

"This type of funding and the support from all levels of government is crucial to safeguard this this non-profit museum," she said.

In 2016, CBC reported only about half of the Diefenbunker's toilets were in flushing order. (Courtesy of Diefenbunker Museum)

Improvements underway

The Diefenbunker has already started spending the new money on a series of improvements to make it a more attractive tourist destination both nationally and internationally, McGuire said.

Some of the projects underway include the development of new exhibitions such as a visual timeline at the entrance that will help new guests learn about key events in the Cold War before they enter the Diefenbunker.

The museum is also installing new road signs to make it easier for visitors to find it. Inside, new more signage will help visitors find their way around the four-story underground bunker.

"We're also very excited about the development of an eight-language audio tour and then a dedicated space for young people," said McGuire.

In addition, the aging historic site is in need of infrastructure upgrades ranging from accessible washrooms to electrical system improvements. CBC Ottawa reported in 2016 that only 23 of the bunker's 55 toilets were useable.

Christine McGuire is executive director of the Diefenbunker Museum. (Submitted/Diefenbunker Museum)

McGuire confirmed that around 85 per cent of the Diefenbunker washrooms remain in disrepair today, and that some of the money has already been used to renovate three washrooms, one of them which is fully accessible.

"For people visiting, you can already start to see the changes, and then some some changes are top secret and you have to come back at the end of the year to see those," McGuire said.

The federal funding comes from the government's Canadian Experiences Fund, which supports communities looking to enhance their tourist attractions.

"Strong regional economies are essential for Canada's success and sustainability," said Kanata–Carleton MP Karen McCrimmon in a news release announcing the funding Wednesday. "This investment will help the Diefenbunker Museum to boost tourism and better tell the story of Canada's Cold War history."

 

The Diefenbunker is a not-for-profit museum, and even though it is a designated national historic site, it doesn't receive federal funding and must compete with other museums for grants.

The museum has faced a cash crunch in recent years that has led it to take other measures to raise revenue, including an escape room and camps for kids.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.