Bell Island Mine No. 2 Museum
Bell Island, Newfoundland
Newfoundland and Labrador’s renowned Bell Island No. 2 Mine Museum has launched an ambitious expansion and renovation project that will enhance visitor’s experience of the Museum’s historical artifacts along with the popular Mine Tour. Adding more space for exhibitions and programming, a new café and gift shop, the expansion project will create an important community hub celebrating and paying tribute to the Miners, who laboured and lived their lives within the depths of the mines beneath Conception Bay.
The experience begins even before you arrive at the museum; the Memorial Garden welcome you onto the grounds and offer an exterior community living room in the summer months, becoming the center of activity. Passing through thick stone walls, your first steps inside the museum are illuminated by the contrast of a heavy exterior with ephemeral light bursting through windows and skylights. The new Exhibition Hall, coupled with the Miner’s Hall, a grand exhibition room, honours the rich past of Bell Island’s mines and miners, with their traditions, artefacts, and stories.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the Museum is the Mine Tour. The expansion project introduces a glass and metal structure marking the No. 2 Mine Head – the beginning and entrance of the mine. Above ground, the tower is reminiscent of the industrial architecture of the operating mine, where visitors are able to climb to the top and look-out over the fields of tailings and Conception Bay beyond. Below ground, the structure provides an exciting transition into the mine tour, who’s route will be increased by the inclusion of significant additional mine ‘rooms and pillars’ making an amazing journey into Bell Island’s mining past even more memorable.
Working closely with the Bell Island Museum & No. 2 Mine as part of ERA’s 2015 Culture of Outports project, the schematic design by Weiss Architecture & Urbanism Limited includes an addition expressive of Bell Island’s incredible natural geography of fractured shale and iron ore cliffs with a lush, green flat top landscape. The addition will be rustically clad in the mine’s own tailing stones and its roof covered with an indigenous vegetation of grasses and moss.
The expansion will provide for barrier-free accessibility through-out the facility, museum-quality archival storage, new offices and staff amenities as well as washrooms. And, along with the green roof, other sustainable features will include a geothermal heating and cooling system that harnesses the constant temperature of the mine and an enhanced existing building envelope.
Kevin Weiss, Sophie Tremblay, Sarah Lipsit