Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Museum director leaves ambitious plan in place

An artist's rendering of the Museum of Idaho. At right is the old Carnegie Library, which opened 100 years ago this Thursday. 
As he steps down from the Museum of Idaho to turn his focus to the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, executive director David Pennock is hoping to see his vision live on.

Although the museum opened in 2003, Pennock has been involved since 1999. Since 2012, when the Margaret and Wendell Petty family contributed $1 million, one main focus has been on raising funds for an expansion that will allow the museum to stay open year round.

So far, the museum has raised $2.4 million toward a $3 million construction goal and $1.8 million for a $3 million endowment.

Thursday is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Carnegie Library, now part of the Museum of Idaho. The library was built after the Village Improvement Society and Round Table Club applied to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant to help them build a permanent center for learning and enlightenment. Considering everything that’s happened, this was a gift that continues to give.

After the city built its new library in the mid-1970s, the old library was taken over by the Bonneville County Historical Society and turned into a home for its archives and artifacts. This was frequently a touch-­and-go proposition, especially one winter when the pipes froze and flooded a large section of the building.

The historical landmark finally got a new lease on life when hometown philanthropist Greg Carr helped put up money to make the Museum of Idaho possible. This involved buying the old Carnegie Library and the Masonic building next door, extensive remodeling and building the exhibition space between the two.

As he leaves — Friday is his last day — Pennock and the board have envisioned a 17,000-­square-­foot exhibition hall directly north of the existing museum complex, including 10,000 continuous square feet of exhibition space. This will allow the museum to stay open year-­round, also for its 14-­foot­-tall Columbian mammoth to be taken out from under a tarp and put on permanent display.

Plans for a dedicated loading facility have been on the books since the museum opened. Without it, the space limitations have dictated that the must be closed when exhibits are being changed. This takes about two months out of the year, Pennock said. The Museum of Idaho has about 104,000 visitors a year.

For temporary exhibits, the plan is for about 8,000 square feet in the old Masonic Lodge section. When the expansion is complete, the existing Carnegie Library­/Masonic Temple structure will be dedicated to the permanent Idaho exhibit, tripling the available space.

The plan also includes moisture and temperature control systems and efficient loading facilities.