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Since April 2016, the museum and Waitaki District Archive have been open to the public through a side door in Steward St, with a limited display space, as plans to amalgamate the museum, archives and the Forrester Gallery at the Thames St gallery site were afoot.
But earlier this year the Waitaki District Council changed course, ending its seven-year-old $6 million redevelopment plan for the gallery's 1882 Heritage New Zealand category 1-registered site, deciding instead to pursue stand-alone upgrades for Oamaru's cultural facilities.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said that while final design considerations were still required, the six-month project at the museum, which began late last month, would reopen the main museum display area and reinstate the museum's Thames St entrance.
"It's really important for the public that the front doors get open again, so we're doing what we need to to make that happen," Mr Kircher said.
This winter, the council directed staff to investigate options for the stand-alone upgrades, but the redevelopment plans for the Forrester Gallery remained on the council's books and the basic work under way would be covered by those existing budgets, he said.
Forrester Gallery, Waitaki District Archives and museum director Jane Macknight said in a council statement the work under way included new display facilities, a refurbishment of the windows, walls and ceiling, a new heating system and the replacement of the old bamboo floor.
Museum curator Chloe Searle said reopening the museum's main-street doors would "enhance the museum's profile".
"It's a building that the museum's been in since 1977 and before that it was just next door since the 1950s - so it's going to be really exciting to reopen here."
The display area and the front doors are scheduled to reopen by May 2019.