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National Gallery of Canada renovated

March 5, 2013

More than 15,000 window panes in the National Gallery of Canada will be replaced in the coming year, making it the largest and most costly renovation project the gallery has seen in its 25 years. Located in Ottawa, Ontario, the National Gallery is home to a vast visual arts collection and also functions as the largest art library in Canada.

The Great Hall of the gallery is a multi-story chamber featuring glass walls and no less than 13 roofs within its immense skylight. In the past, replacing leaky panels would result in mismatched shades of glass. Though the variation in color irked the artistically minded staff, it was a far better option than permitting any weather from changing the humidity within the gallery and endangering the art. Due to the necessity of a pressurized environment inside the hall, only a limited number of windows could be open at any time.

This feature has lead to curious challenges around the windows' replacement. Though the work itself will cost $8.7 million, the added security to protect the wealth of art within the gallery is expected to raise that estimate to over $9 million.

Unfortunately, this price tag has led in part to the cut of 29 positions at the gallery. Only 21 employees will be laid off, but six vacant positions will vanish entirely and two retiring employees will not be replaced. Though director Marc Mayer stated the majority of the layoffs were in areas with duplication, the largest being hit is the gallery's library, where a loss of six employees reduces the staff by one-third. "However, the public isn't going to feel that at all," said Mayer. "We're still going to be the largest art library in the country."

Due to the construction, the staff reductions may not inconvenience visitors. Construction work has a strong tendency to deter visitors and the gallery is projecting a much lower attendance this year, expecting only 40 thousand visitors instead of the usual 75 to 100 thousand.

The new glass walls and ceiling of the Great Hall won't be the only pieces of beauty the gallery is bringing in this year. A special exhibition on international indigenous art will be open to the public this summer. With the noisiest construction tasks performed at night, no crowds during the day and many exhibitions still open, this may be a good year to visit.

Those who want to talk about art can make calls to Canada using international phone cards.


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