GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 27, 2013

Museum poised for renovation shutdown

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — When the Cape Ann Museum closes at 4 p.m. Sunday, its doors will remain closed for about nine months as it undergoes a $3 million renovation.

The museum — which dates to 1873 with the incorporation of the Cape Ann Scientific and Literary Association — will undergo a redesign of its galleries to bring it into the 21st century.

Among the changes:

The Fitz Henry Lane, Davis and Folly Cove Designers galleries will be renovated.

Two new galleries will be created by reconfiguring existing underutilized space: One will be the Central Gallery, which will serve as the educational hub and a gathering place where visitors can be introduced to the museum collections.

The other will be the Fresnel Lens Gallery, which will house the historic 10-foot, 1-ton First Order Fresnel Lens. This lens once graced one of the twin lighthouse towers on Rockport’s Thacher Island when it was installed on the island in 1861.

Overall, visitors will benefit from improved amenities, a more welcoming reception area, expanded gift shop and personal lockers.

Museum Director Ronda Faloon emphasized Thursday that, even though the museum will be closed, it will continue to offer a full schedule of programs off-site.

”The message I want to convey is in spite of the fact that the physical museum will not be open, we will continue a rigorous schedule of programing throughout the time of the closure,” said Faloon. “We will collaborate with other cultural and educational institutions. We’re excited for people to continue to participate in our programming, and we really look forward to our reopening sometime in the summer of 2014.”

One of the final events to be held at the museum itself will be on Oct. 19, with the fourth annual Charles Olson Lecture and Amiri Baraka — dramatist, novelist, poet and activist — serving as guest speaker.

Then in November, a film series that is in the planning stages will be shown at Cape Ann Community Cinema in Gloucester.

The renovation is part of a $5 million capital campaign, in which $1 million will be for a museum endowment and another $1 million will go to several other initiatives — including seed money for an acquisition fund and other projects.

This renovation project itself includes major updates of the building’s infrastructure — mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting, fire and security systems — in the older parts of the museum, which date to the 1930s and 1960s. Architectural enhancements to the interior include new flooring, ceilings and finishes.

In addition to housing the world’s largest collection of paintings and drawings by native son Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865), the museum boasts a top-shelf maritime and granite quarrying collection, as well as a diverse collection of fine art.

The redesign is intended to better tell the story of Cape Ann with its diverse threads that intersect over the centuries.

“Dynamic new interior and exterior spaces will be created,” said Faloon. “Outdated systems will be updated, and underutilized spaces will be maximized to provide visitor-friendly settings for the collection.”

The board of directors undertook an extensive strategic planning process in its quest to create a more comprehensive museum experience for visitors.

Visit www.capeannmuseum.org for current program listings and to keep informed of the progress.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.