Tours With An Architect: The Dundas Museum & Archives

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Nestled amongst a quiet residential neighbourhood on Park Street West, sits the newly renovated Dundas Museum and Archives.

Completed in November 2013 at cost of $1.4 million, the new expansion features a double-height atrium connecting the Dundas Historical Society Museum to the Pirie House, expanded galleries, additional storage, and greater accessibility.

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“The north and south entrances (of the atrium) and the original exhibit space are all at different heights,” said Drew Hauser, Principle Architect at MSA Architects, the firm commissioned to design the expansion. “The atrium brings them all together, accessibly.”

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Dundas Museum and Archives Curator Kevin Puddister said the original entrance of the Dundas Historical Society Museum (completed in 1956) was a nightmare. “You had to go up two sets of stairs that were both steep. We had a chair lift, like on the [infomercials],” said Puddister. The exterior of the old entrance is currently enclosed in glass, which the museum plans to use to promote their events.

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Now there is an elevator in the atrium, added with the help of the Federal Government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund, connecting to the original exhibit space. The entrance to the exhibit space is open and shared, with the stairs and elevator side-by-side.

Hauser and his team expanded the galleries. The feature gallery “used to have something like a stage, but we got rid of it,” said Hauser, giving the gallery space more available square footage. The ceiling tiles have been removed, leaving the ceiling exposed and pot lights were installed on sliding tracks.

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The double-height atrium, named Robert & Eva (Betrum) Cole Atrium (after the family of the Dundas Museum founder H.G. Bertram), features exposed beams, celestial windows, corrugated steel cladding, and an area to display artifacts like the machine lathe that was built by John Bertram and Sons Co. in 1896. “I bought it on Kijiji!” boasts Puddister, with a smile.

Puddister says the atrium was inspired by Dundas’ industrial past. “What many people don’t realize is that Dundas was an industrial town, and the atrium has that industrial look to it.”

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The atrium also connects to the Pirie House, bought by the museum in 1974. The walls separating the rooms inside the house have been removed and the area is open, yet intimate, and has become a popular event space.

There is ease to the museums layout. A flow that is both sociable and transparent. “It’s a better space for security and engagement,” said Puddister. “We have staff throughout the museum. It’s more fluid.”

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The Doctors Office, a Gothic Revival building built in 1848 and moved behind the museum in 1974, is also connected via concrete pathway. “I love that we linked the museum to the Doctors Office. This space (the north lawn) would be a great place to throw events in the future,” said Hauser.

Both Hauser and Puddister are pleased with the renovation. “This was one of my favourite projects,” said Hauser. “The Board of Directors was really great to work with. They were really understanding.”

The Dundas Museum and Archives is located at 139 Park St West and is open from Tuesday to Saturday.

For more information visit http://www.dundasmuseum.ca/

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