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State museum project nearly ready to go

Popular exhibits to remain as facility undergoes changes

Posted: February 3, 2012 - 2:28am

The new state Library, Archives and Museum building is on time and on budget, even if the final funding of that budget is somewhat uncertain.

The total $127 million cost needs another $90 million in appropriations, said architect Brian Meissner of ECI/Hyer, Inc.

Despite the need for more money, Meissner told the Juneau public at a forum Thursday they’ll be ready with construction documents in April and ready to build in July.

“I can confidently say we’re getting ready to build,” he said.

The amount they already have in hand, along with $20 million in Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget this year “tips us over the point where this thing is going to happen,” Meissner said.

It may take a couple of more legislative sessions to acquire the funding, he said. The current cost estimate is based on all the money being available by July, he said.

“It doesn’t mean the project doesn’t happen, it just means it happens on a different schedule,” if not all the money isn’t in place by then, he said.

Meissner said the current plans for heating the building are complete, with final design of exhibits and display spaces.

Some parts of the building will be dramatically different from the current look of the Museum.

The white outside structure will now be more of a “deeper rich red charcoal color” and feature reflective glass to tie it to the outside environment.

Some of the color comes from copper panels, under glass to protect them from the weather, and to provide a tie to the importance of copper to the Alaska Native culture and to contemporary industrial culture.

“It’s something we think will be really beautiful in Juneau when light changes subtly during the day,” Meissner said.

Inside the building, one of the current building’s key features, the eagle tree, will also remain in the new building.

The new building will have an eagle tree, but it will be stairs, not a ramp, that wraps around the tree.

Meissner said it was a “painful decision” to lose the eagle tree’s ramp, but it would be impossible to keep.

The current ramp, he said, couldn’t be built under modern building codes.

Under current regulations such a ramp would have to be less steep and include landings, which would take 2.5 times the floor space.

The new tree exhibit will be visible from the stairs, as well as the mezzanine and top floor balconies, he said.

The state Library, now located in the State Office Building, will be on the top floor.

Another popular attraction for generations of visitors, the Tribal House, is also likely to remain, the forum was told, though final exhibit decision have yet been made.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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