Museum Renovations Continue, Re-opening Delayed until Spring 2007

Exciting news here at the WNMU Museum: we had extra funds remaining in our 2006 Legislative Allocation so we are continuing our renovations!  While we know that folks are anxiously waiting our re-opening, we thought it prudent to continue with renovations while we were still closed, delaying our reopening to Spring 2007 (we are hoping to reopen by March). What we will be doing with all of this extra time?  See New Renovations Scheduled section below for the exciting changes coming…but first our update!!



Renovation Update

We still seem to bump into something interesting with quite a bit of history every day!


Third Floor Electrical Closet

In the August 10 Update I mentioned what we found during the removal of the plaster ceiling of the Museum’s 1926 Classroom. Since that time a portion of an additional compromised plaster ceiling had to be removed in one of the new ”electrical closets” located on the Third or Main Floor.  In this ceiling we found items from as early as 1936 and no later than 1937 that appear to have been deposited during the time Fleming Hall served as the University’s library. It was quite a collection of pamphlets featuring tours to Mexico, sections of journals, and a Valentine’s Day card along with old gum wrappers, cigarette rolling papers, and an empty cigarette pack.  The artifacts suggest that the stacks in the NE corner of Fleming Hall’s mezzanine was the place to swap Valentine’s Day cards or to sneak a smoke during library hours—similar to the stories alumni have relayed about meeting their girlfriend or boyfriend in the old Heating Plant, now Hunter Hall, to smooch!


New Lighting

New lighting, meeting both museum lighting and energy-efficiency standards, is being installed throughout the building along with the new electrical wiring.  Daily we can see the changes that the new lighting is making to our display and exhibition space, and it is very exciting. With the exception of office, storage, and restroom lighting, the Museum’s lighting will be remotely controlled with a panel. This will enable us to switch on and off individual track segments and rooms as needed, and switch on all of the lights before opening the Museum to the public increasing staff safety by decreasing the need to walk through darkened hallways. We will also have full override capabilities.


Case Lighting—New case lighting, still being adjusted, is providing full spectrum light meeting museum standards that completely illuminates the entire inside of the permanent display cases ensuring that the Mimbres pottery we are so well-known for is easily visible enhancing the visitor experience. The new case lighting also has a series of dimmer switches allowing us to adjust the case lighting as needed for special events and dark days.


Office, Storage Area, and Restroom Lighting—Offices, storage areas, and the restrooms are being out-fitted with energy-efficient fluorescent lighting that also serves as emergency lighting when needed.  For the first time in over 30 years, there are two light fixtures per office that are controlled by two-switches permitting lighting level adjustment as needed (Good bye to the old T-8s!). Restroom lights and exhaust fans are controlled by an occupancy sensor reducing the Museum’s energy needs.


New Busway Track Lighting—The new busway track lighting systems have been installed in the second floor hallway and “Buggy Room” as well as on the fourth floor mezzanine. We have two different light fixtures that attach to the tracks, one is a wall wash and the other is a canister light, both of which can be easily attached and moved on the busway tracks. The fixtures also have the flexibility of being individually switched off or on as required. Both fixtures use efficient long-life halogen bulbs that meet energy-efficiency and museum lighting standards, and the canister light will accommodate different types of bulbs with different wattages. Over the next few weeks the electrical engineer for the project and your’s truly will be up and down on ladders testing out the different bulbs/wattages and fixtures, and adjusting light directing features and fixture angle to determine placement for lighting needs.


Additional Emergency Lighting and Exit Signs Installed—There are new emergency lighting and directional exit signs installed throughout the Museum. Thanks to Lynco supervisor James Carrick, the new emergency lighting for the Museum’s main floor and mezzanine uses well camouflaged conduit. The new conduit installation permitted the electricians to remove the old conduit that was attached to the handrail surrounding the mezzanine and to place camouflaged electrical outlets around the inside of the mezzanine walls for easy access event lighting.


Main Entrance Historic Exterior Lighting Fixtures Retained—Generally, we are removing out-dated or old lighting fixtures from the Museum. However, we have retained the original historic exterior lighting fixtures of the Museum; and yes, they have been re-wired and energy-efficient long-life bulbs have been installed. As far as the interior lighting of the main entrance, we are replacing the older fixture that provides little light on dark or rainy days with a new fixture that maintains the historic atmosphere of the Museum while fully illuminating the main entrance interior.


New Renovations Scheduled

Wall Separating Pottery Storage and Lounge Comes Down—Yes, after we don’t know how many years, the wall on the second floor that separated the pottery storage from the lounge has come down restoring the room to its original size.  The maple wood floors and plaster walls where the wall was attached are all in fantastic condition.  In taking down the wall, a historic door with most of its framing intact connecting the classroom with the now larger room was located. 


Plans are to turn the east half of this larger room into secure, open, visible storage of the Museum’s pottery and perishable artifact collections to complement the permanent exhibitions on the third or main floor upstairs, and to turn the west half of the room into a late 1910s-style non-lending library of Mogollon archaeology literature, both of which will certainly enhance the experience for all of our visitors while maintaining the Museum’s historic atmosphere.  This transformation will take time, and money, but the first step has begun with the removal of the wall.  During our expanded renovation period we will use funds remaining from our 2006 Legislative Allocation to refinish all of the wood in the room, restore all hardware to the windows and transoms, and upgrade security and UV-diminishing measures. The first step in providing the open, secure, and visible artifact storage will also occur with the purchase and installation of the first of a series of high-quality secure display cases.  This purchase has been made possible through an equipment fund allocation from WNMU’s Academic Affairs (thank you very much Academic Affairs!!!).


I’m pleased to announce that NetherfieldUSA has been chosen as our case designer and manufacturer.  Netherfield cases are beautiful (and expensive) and can be manufactured to fit the historic atmosphere of the Museum.  Museum staff will be working directly with NetherfieldUSA to determine our needs, to design the storage cases and drawers, and to develop cost projections.  The Museum will actively pursue grant funding and donor contributions to purchase and to install the remainder of the exhibition cases needed.  Plans are in the works to hold our famous Black-on-white Gala on November 3, 2007 to raise funds!  We will also be raising funds for the floor-to-ceiling, glass-fronted locking wood bookcases for the late 1910s-style non-lending archaeology library.


Ceilings in Director’s and Main (Manager’s) Offices to be Removed—Like several of our other plaster ceilings, the ceilings in the director’s (4th floor) and Manager’s or Main (3rd) offices are severely compromised and must be removed.  For the first time in 90 years the ceiling joists in the director’s office are seeing the light of day.  Contractors have been carefully removing this damaged ceiling for the last several days and as yet, nothing has been found…as expected given that it is the 4th floor of the building.  It appears that the 1916 contractors were over-achievers in plastering.  Generally, plaster is applied in a thin coat over metal mesh, which is secured to the ceiling joints.  In the director’s office the plaster was applied to a thickness of well over 1-inch to almost to 1 ½-inch to the metal mesh, far too heavy for the ½-inch nails used to hold the metal mesh to the ceiling joints.  Due to the thickness of the plaster, and resulting weight, the small nails holding the metal mesh separated from the ceiling joists creating a 4-inch to 6-inch sag in the plaster. While I was not too happy about moving my entire office (you would understand if you had ever seen my office…stacks of books and papers everywhere!), I am very glad I did so now for two reasons—almost everything has been filed or shelved, and the 6-inch sag was directly over my desk.


As for the ceiling in the main office, contractors should begin removing it carefully piece by piece last week. We had expected to find interesting things in this ceiling, which lies directly below the director’s office, and thought we might recover items from when Fleming Hall was the library, since the Museum director’s office was originally the librarian’s (Mrs. Lucille (Nelson) Merriwether Gray) in the past, and items from the 1970s to early 1990s when the office was used by Dr. Dale Giese, professor emeritus of History. Unfortunately, we did not find anything in the ceiling except wood shavings from the maple floor installed in the director’s office. On a side note, we have the most exquisite collection of 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s period dresses from Mrs. Lucille Gray that we hope to display in the future.


1920s Classroom—During the extended renovation we plan to renovate the unique 1920s lecture hall in the Museum. As noted on the August renovation update, the original plaster ceiling was compromised and 2.5 tons of plaster removed! Monday, Museum staff removed the old wood and metal lecture desks from the classroom to enable the installation of a new sheetrock ceiling.  When the ceiling, the painting, and the installation of the busway track lighting are complete, the restoration of all of the wood will begin. The restoration includes removing the carpet from front of the lecture hall, refinishing the maple floor underneath, repairing and refinishing the damaged maple flooring of the four tiers, removing the painted plywood from the windows, and refinishing all the baseboards, wood-framed windows, wood doors and frames, and restoring all window and transom hardware. The historic door connecting the new pottery/non-lending library to the classroom will be restored on the classroom side, and will be covered over with sheetrock on the opposite site so the wood chair rail disguising the new electrical outlets can be constructed over the area. This will allow the Museum to re-open this door in the future. With the restoration of the classroom to its original glory, including—according to students—uncomfortable wood and metal lecture desks/chairs, the room will be made available for lecture use.