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Ottawa's Diefenbunker museum celebrates 1 million visitors

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The Diefenbunker, Canada's Cold War Museum, celebrated a major milestone on Wednesday, welcoming its one millionth visitor.

"I was planning to go to work, but magically got the day off, so I took a road trip out here to see the bunker and surprise, I'm the one millionth visitor!" said Kingston, Ont. resident Lilian Wilson.

Located in the rural west Ottawa community of Carp, the four-storey underground bunker was commissioned by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1959. It was meant to house key members of government and military in the event of nuclear attack on Canada.

The one millionth visitor milestone comes just a few days shy of the 30th anniversary of The Diefenbunker receiving a national historic site designation.

"When visitors come here, they are stepping into history," said Diefenbunker executive director Christine McGuire. "They descend 75 feet underground to experience powerful stories of people and artifacts in terms of the safeguarding of our country during one of the most tumultuous times in current world history."

Regarded as Canada's most significant Cold War artifact, the space has been used as a movie set on several occasions and features more than 350 rooms, like a vault meant to store gold from The Bank of Canada.

The bunker was transformed into a museum in 1998, drawing visitors from all over the country and the world.

"We're from Calgary!" said Tom St. Clair, who arrived with a school bus full of Grade 8 students. "This is such a cool place. We had to come."

The wide range of visitors is a delight for Brian Jeffrey, who has been volunteering as a museum guide for 28 years.

"I'm always fascinated by the visitors who seem to be enthralled by the world is far different than it was then," he said.

The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, offering a number of programs and exhibits. General admission ranges from $12 to 18.50.

Admission is free to the public on June 1 as part of Doors Open Ottawa. Tickets must be reserved in advance. 

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