Gus, 87, has weathered eight months of renovations and now he’s back to soaking up public adoration.

The tortoise and longtime resident of the Museum of Natural History is welcoming back visitors Friday.

The ceilings in the 40-year-old building were in bad need of repair since many of them contained asbestos, explained Calum Ewing, director of museum operations.

And while they were fixing the ceilings, they also took out carpets, repaired the brickwork on the exterior, and remodelled the foyer and retail space.

“Probably the most damning criticism we can get from visitors is when people arrive with their young children they say, ‘I’ve been here before and I remember it looked just like this when I was his age,’” Ewing said.

So museum staff are refreshing the exhibits now, and over the next few years.

Ewing said they took a storage room and put in big windows to convert it into a visible working lab.

“So visitors to the museum can watch staff doing some of the behind-the-scenes work ... One day it could be people working on insects and another day it could be somebody doing conservation work on Mi’qmaq baskets.”

The temporary exhibit gallery is home to snakes, scorpions and other critters with Ray’s Reptile Zoo for the summer. But come the fall, it will be turned into a unique, permanent exhibit called Netukulimk.

“It’s going to be something different to the museum world ... It’s creating a new way for visitors to interact with the museum experience,” Ewing said.

Netukulimk is a Mi’qmaq word meaning a different way of looking at the world and connecting with nature.

“What was once an empty gallery is going to be filled with trees, which is kind of an indoor forest experience.”

The Museum of Natural History, which receives between 95,000 to 98,000 visitors a year, is offering free admission Friday.

Price tag
The price tag on eight months of renos at the Museum of Natural History: $1 million.