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After 40 years, Edmonton's Queen Elizabeth Planetarium reopens

A ceremony was held on Friday to mark the reopening of Edmonton's Queen Elizabeth Planetarium after years of restoration work.

The planetarium first opened in 1960 to mark a visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

It was Canada's first planetarium.

It closed in 1983.

Restoration work began on the building in 2019 with a budget of $7 million, but was delayed as a result of the pandemic.

"That was really just the nature of being able to do construction projects during the pandemic," said Telus World of Science Edmonton (TWOSE) CEO Constance Scarlett. "With restoration projects as well, it's really important that you're using the right materials. So having access to that during the pandemic was a little bit more difficult."

A ceremony is held to mark the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium in Edmonton on Sept. 29, 2023. (Dave Mitchell/CTV News Edmonton)

The planetarium has been designated a municipal historic resource, so keeping as much of the original architecture as possible was a major focus.

"We restored elements of the architecture such as the tiling, the railings, some of the key interior elements, put a protective covering on the dome, but we made improvements to accessibility and sustainability," said Shannon Fitzsimmons of the City of Edmonton. "So we added an accessible ramp lift. And then from a sustainability perspective, we improved elements like lighting and mechanical systems."

Dignitaries celebrate the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium in Edmonton on Sept. 29, 2023. (Jessica Robb/CTV News Edmonton)

The first director of the planetarium was present for the ceremony on Friday.

"It's wonderful to be here, because this building could have been demolished very easily," Ian McLennan told reporters. "Some people might have thought it was past its due date. But the visionaries who looked ahead realized that this is an important historical heritage building."

McLennan says while the building is small by modern standards, it's just the right size for young scientists.

"It's going to be perfect for education for very young children; as young as two, believe it or not."

"I want to see that happen here. Great legacy."

Scarlett says work on programming for children is already underway.

"It really becomes a space that we can use for our youngest community members, who, going into a regular-sized dome might be a little bit overwhelming for them," she said.

"So we are developing programming specifically for young children in this domain."

TWOSE is holding a free open house at the facility this weekend, and the building will be available for rentals in the future. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb 

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