Mount Washington Museum has closed doors on past, readying for spring unveiling
MOUNT WASHINGTON — After more than 40 years at the summit of a celebrated Granite State peak, the Mount Washington Observatory closed the doors on its Mount Washington Museum and is transforming the site this fall.
Artifact removal and deconstruction took place at the end of September, in order to pave the way to the projected spring opening of a high-tech, interactive educational experience dedicated to the science and wonder of a Mount Washington winter.
"While we honor the past, we are thrilled to take this bold step forward with our educational program," said executive director Scot Henley. "The new museum will enhance the overall visitor experience at Mt. Washington State Park, offering the peak's 250,000 annual visitors insight into the mountain's incredible weather and alpine environment."
The renovation process itself is quite an undertaking. Located 6,288 feet above sea level — "and eight miles from anywhere," museum officials said, the museum is perched atop a mountain known as the "home of the world's worst weather." Bitter temperatures, high winds, remarkable snow and incredible ice engulf the peak from late October to mid-May. Summer is the only time the peak is accessible by vehicle, and the only time construction work can be performed.
However, summer also is the mountain's peak tourist season. Mount Washington Observatory's mountaintop museum welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each summer.
The result is an extremely narrow window of time when work can be done — just one or two weeks between peak visitation and closing of the Mt. Washington Auto Road.
"We were able to successfully remove all the old exhibits in less than a week," said Director of Museum Operations Bill Grenfell, who is overseeing the project. "Our Director of Education and Curator are now working to inventory and catalog all the artifacts, which are slated for permanent homes in our Gladys Brooks Memorial Library or other private collections."
A construction team from the Appalachian Mountain Club began demolition work in early October and planned to stay in the observatory's private living quarters until site work is completed, hopefully by the middle of the month. The Appalachian Mountain Club construction crew was "a natural choice for the job," says Grenfell, as they are accustomed to working and living in remote locations.
Jeff Kennedy Associates of Somerville, Mass., is designing the new museum. The firm has been planning and designing the new space for more than two years, and is building the exhibits as modular components in its Somerville facility. The materials will be staged in box trucks at the base of the mountain, so they can be transported to the summit as soon as the road opens next spring.
"The only challenge that remains is raising the final funds for the project," said Henley earlier this fall. "Through the support of generous foundations and nearly 300 individual donors, we have raised just over $785,000 towards the total budget of $825,000."
For details, visit Extreme.MountWashington.org or call 356-2137, ext. 230.