Oldest building in state gets restoration funding boost

Museum awarded $273,750 grant from pool of 340 applicants

Posted: Friday, December 21, 2007

KODIAK - After several years of work by the city of Kodiak and the Kodiak Historical Society, the Baranov Museum this month became one of 31 applicants selected for a grant from the Save America's Treasures foundation.

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"It's really exciting," said Katie Oliver, executive director of the Kodiak Historical Society. "It's sort of the big one we've been working on for a long time."

The museum was selected for a grant of $273,750 from a pool of 340 applicants. Established in 1998, the Save America's Treasure foundation works to protect threatened cultural treasures, including historic structures, collections and works of art.

Planning for the restoration of the Baranov Museum began in 2003 after a National Park Service survey team identified several major areas that need repair.

City officials and the Historical Society plan on matching the grant, one of the conditions for receiving the money.

After the National Park Service report, officials began an aggressive campaign to raise funds, which culminated in the SAT grant.

Oliver said that the grant and the matching funds are a large portion of what is necessary, but more will be needed.

"Now that the federal dollars are in hand, we plan on kicking off our public portion," she said.

The Historical Society hopes to raise approximately $250,000 more.

The Baranov museum is housed in the Erskine House, a two-story log building constructed between 1805 and 1808 as a warehouse for sea otter furs, considered the oldest building in Alaska and one of only four structures of Russian design still standing in the U.S.

Money raised will be used to alleviate some of the building's pressing construction issues, including water damage to the walls and an outdated electrical system.

Upgrades to the museum will be done in three phases.

In Phase 1 the building will get new track lighting and historic lighting fixtures. The electrical system will also be completely redone, replacing the 1960s wiring.

"We've outgrown the existing system," Oliver said. "We lost power a couple of times over the last several months, leaving visitors in the dark until it could be restored."

Phase 2 upgrades will be to the exterior of the building, which include replacing leaky windows. The 19th century siding also will be completely stripped, repaired and painted.

In the final phase, the building will get a much-needed fire suppression system.

To keep museum collections safe in case the fire system is activated, curators will replace the open display system currently in place with sealed waterproof display cabinets.

Museum officials hope to see everything completed within the next two years.

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