The Sheldon Museum board of trustees and staff are hoping to draw up a new vision for the museum. They want to attract more tourists and locals, and they think there are structural and design issues that get in the way of that.
The museum has hired a Juneau-based architect, who has helped with the Haines library extension, to lead discussions on the potential museum renovation and come up with plan.
The first of the public meetings was Thursday. Corey Wall of MRV Architects told the 15 or so people gathered at the meeting that he’s not sure yet what will the end result of these discussions will be.
“The idea is that at the end of this, we’ll have an idea of what the museum could become in the future and a price associated with that and steps on how to get there,” Wall said. “At this point we don’t have a budget, we don’t have a sense of whether it’s going to be an addition, an interior renovation, a combination of both, or how big that addition’s going to be. So we’re just starting with a blank sheet of paper.”
There are many things the museum staff and board are not happy with. Here are some: There’s no elevator, making it difficult for people who have impaired mobility to get around. The front entrance is too small and not welcoming. The outside of the museum doesn’t do much to draw people in. There’s not enough collection and storage space. Environmental controls aren’t adequate. The exhibit space could be more appealing.
Board Vice President Jim Shook was one of a few people who mentioned bathrooms. He said during the summer, tourists come in to use the bathrooms, which are located to the left of the welcome desk. Then many leave when they see it costs $5 to see the museum exhibits.
“We’re getting so many people who are just coming in using the bathrooms and leaving,” Shook said.
Ideas to change that include strategically moving the bathroom so people must walk through exhibits or the gift shop to get there, or making the front entrance more engaging with a display or artwork, so visitors want to see more.
Debra Schnabel suggested moving the Eldred Rock Lighthouse lens outdoors to show tourists one of the interesting things they can see in the museum.
“If that was outside in the yard, just being there for everybody to look at, even if they were driving by, they would say, ‘That must be a cool place, because look at that cool thing there.’” Shnabel said.
Director Helen Alten wants the museum to become more of a gathering place for locals. She says the only time locals come to the museum now is when there’s an exhibit opening or other event. There aren’t any meeting spaces or classrooms.
Alten says a museum is a creative place, and she doesn’t see that creativity reflected in the structure, the way it is now.
During the discussion on everything that’s wrong with the museum, architect Wall offered some hopeful advice.
“You are in a primo location as far as tourists coming in and the public and the emphasis the town wants to have on the Main St. revitalization happening,” Wall said. “So you could view this as sort of the key to everything that’s going to be happening in Haines — is this spot. If it was developed properly.”
Another public conversation is planned for next month. Wall says he’ll have some rough ideas for renovation then.