The hub for kids at The Forks will be expanded with more space and more displays under a $9.5-million capital renewal project to begin next year.
On Friday, Ottawa and the province kicked in a total of $5 million to jump-start the museum's own fundraising program.
Museum board chairwoman Laurel Repsky said the project includes renewing its current gallery and adding a 3,500-square-foot entrance or welcome centre at the front of the building. That will double the number of hands-on displays to 12 and include an interactive art and exhibition centre and new sound and lighting equipment.
"We think that the new exhibits will have really broad appeal," Repsky said, explaining kids of all ages and backgrounds will find something to do. "Our hope is we get a shovel in the ground pretty soon."
The museum, located in the Kinsmen Building, was one of the first projects at The Forks opening in 1994. Over the years it has seen several interior renovations, but is in need of a major change to keep it vital for young families.
"It's important to renew the galleries," Premier Greg Selinger said. "I know that when I brought my kids here they always wanted something new."
The province is providing $1.25 million in funding and Ottawa is contributing $2.5 million under the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund and an additional $1.25 million through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. The money was announced by Selinger and St. Boniface Conservative MP Shelly Glover.
Repsky said plans for the expanded museum are partly based on the views of kids and parents. The museum will be closed next fall during construction and renovations and will reopen in spring 2011. The passenger-train exhibit will stay, but others will be removed for newer displays. Details on the new exhibits will be released at a later time.
Lawrie Pollard, chairman of Pollard Bank Note Ltd. and museum capital campaign chairman, said organizers hope to completely transform the museum and add new displays that are "up to scratch" with what young kids today expect.
"This is a wonderful leg-up," he said of the government funding. The museum has already raised $2 million on its own and with the government contributions, it only has to raise another $2.5 million to reach its goal. That money should be easy to find as the museum has already approached a number of potential donors.