Doors Open Ottawa: A Bunker Success!

Posted: June 18, 2012 in Events, Local Community, Museum Community, Public Programs, Visitors Services

Have you ever wondered how many people can fit in the Diefenbunker?

Originally, it was built to be “home” to 535 military and government officials for 30 days, but when we first opened as a museum in 1998, fire code only allowed for 60 people at one time.

In 2010, we underwent a huge retrofit to our fire and safety systems and increased our capacity to 420. This year, on June 2 and 3, we put that capacity to the test!

The Diefenbunker has been a popular site for Doors Open Ottawa for many years. This annual event allows free access to over 150 sites in the National Capital region for one weekend.

Volunteers demonstrating Morse code at the DiefenbunkerAll hands were on deck for this very important weekend at the Diefenbunker. We provided 6 guided tours an hour led by excellent staff and volunteer interpreters. When space ran out on the guided tours, visitors were allowed in to self-guide.  There was retro candy, vintage wear and Diefenbunker branded goods for sale in our newly relocated boutique. Our radio volunteers were hard at work, operating all day and teaching visitors about ham radio and Morse code.

4 Doors Open Sites in Carp!

We were one of four Doors Open Ottawa sites in Carp this year, and visitors came out by the hundreds to see us each day. On Saturday, we were amazed by the arrival of over 1,300 visitors.

On Sunday morning, riding on the excitement and energy of the day before, we issued a challenge on Twitter for Ottawans to come out and help us beat Saturday’s record.

And it worked! On Sunday we had 1,420 visitors.

This brought our grand total up to a record-breaking 2,777 visitors in one weekend.

Visitors waiting to enter the museum at Doors Open Ottawa 2012

All staff and volunteers worked incredibly hard to make sure that all 2,777 visitors learned a little something about the Cold War and left with a smile on their face. Despite the rain, there was a sea of smiling faces underground that weekend.

It was a great opportunity for us to test our operations at capacity, and see what it really was like to have 420 people inside at once. On Sunday afternoon around 3pm, we did reach capacity with over 400 visitors inside the bunker for about twenty minutes. With 4 stories and 100,000 square feet you could barely even tell!

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