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Behind the Scenes at Sherbrooke's Science and Nature Museum

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--March 8, 2011.

larger_bowels.2.jpgWe were invited recently on a behind-the-scenes, "VIP tour" of the bowels of Sherbrooke's Museum of Science and Nature. Museum director Marie-Claude Bibeau was anxious to show off the new exhibition that is currently in the works, as well as the "reserves," that area deep in the heart of the museum where all of the artefacts are kept that are not presently on display.

Down in the reserves, Bibeau introduced us to Serge Gauthier, who is the conservator in charge of the museum's collections.

Gauthier was pleased to show off some of the items in the collection. "We've got about 65,000 specimens down here," he said. "All of them are carefully stored in special, protective drawers or shelves, in a completely climate-controlled environment." Which means that they don't get too much humidity, they don't dry out, and they don't get over-exposed to light.

larger_bowels.1.jpgGauthier showed us some of his rarer specimens, including examples of the long-extinct passenger pigeon and a rare cougar, a species that once inhabited the Eastern Townships.

Many of the earliest specimens, Gauthier explained, including a moose dating to 1850, were originally part of the collection of Sherbrooke's Musée du Séminaire, which was absorbed by the Museum of Science and Nature some years ago.

In the museum's sprawling workshop, where new exhibitions are put together from scratch by a team of carpenters and craftsmen, Bibeau presented us to Marie-Claude Letarte, the project manager in charge of putting together the new exhibition, "A River Runs Through It," which is set to open on March 16.

larger_bowels.3.jpgLetarte showed us how exhibitions are built from the ground up, and how technicians assemble interpretive panels, display cases, and other exhibition components with tools and raw materials on hand in the museum workshop.

"Sometimes we're able to recycle material from previous exhibitions," Letarte said, pointing out some panels that were about to be reused.

The new exhibition, Letarte explained, will be all about the secrets that are concealed within our rivers, and about the richness and fragility of our waterways. "A River Runs Through It" will run until September 5, after which it will become a traveling exhibit that will be on display in museums across Canada.