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Park City Museum chooses architects for its improvements

MATT JAMES Of the Record staff

At the beginning of October, the Park City Historical Society and Museum took control of the space at 518 Main Street, and while that space is closed up and papered-over now, it will eventually provide the museum with more space and a more noticeable presence on Main Street.

But first, the organization needs to finalize its plans for its new and improved facilities, and earlier this week, the museum took a step in that direction, choosing an architect, Mark Cavagnero Associates, of San Francisco, and an exhibit designer, West Office Exhibition Design, of Oakland, Calif.

"It was a very difficult and challenging decision for the board, because of the quality of the proposals and the firms," said Sandra Morrison, the executive director of the Historical Society and Museum.

The organization conducted an extensive search, she said.

"The board of trustees put together a request for proposals that was quite lengthy, talking about what we wanted," Morrison said.

The museum received 40 responses to its request, and with advice from consultant Jim Volkert, who helped organize the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., the board narrowed its choices down to a short list of three designers and four architects.

From there, the organization conducted two days of interviews and made its decisions.

"It boiled down to the experience both of the firms have with this kind of project," said Morrison.

The most exciting part of the search, Morrison noted, was talking to each about their plans and proposals for the museum. The two firms will set forth plans for a redesign of the entire museum, including the facility’s current space, the new space at 518 Main Street and the space currently occupied by the Liquor Store, which will likely become part of the museum when the establishment’s lease is up and the store can find a new home.

The architects, Mark Cavagnero Associates, specialize in historic preservation and adaptive re-use and have worked extensively with museums, engineering re-designs of historical facilities including the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and the History San Jose Museum.

West Office Exhibition Design is an award-winning firm that has designed displays for the Washington State History Museum, the National Cowgirl Museum and the Plains Indian Museum.

Morrison said the Historical Society and Museum’s goal is to design a comprehensive story running throughout the museum, so guests can follow the thread of Park City’s history.

"So each exhibit adds to what they’ve learned and experienced in the museum," said Morrison.

Among the museum’s other goals will be establishing new spaces to display its considerable collection of artifacts, most of which are currently in storage.

Currently, Morrison said the Historical Society and Museum are coordinating with the two firms to set up meetings and begin design work.

"The architects and the exhibition designers are just sitting down," she said. "We’re looking to move forward as quickly as possible, but obviously we want to continue to serve the public and accomplish our mission."

The redesign project will encounter several obstacles. The continued operation of the Museum and Historical Society will be an important factor, as will some logistical concerns. Contractors need to figure out how to safely cut through a 17-inch-thick brick wall between the museum and the 518 Main Street space, and the redesign will need to be coordinated with Park City’s plaza renovation.

Eventually, Morrison said the 518 Main Street space will be the museum’s front entrance.

But there’s some work to do before then.

"This is really an exciting time for us," concluded Morrison. "It’s sort of bringing all our dreams to fruition."

She said the effort will improve the museum and create a cultural attraction on Main Street.

She was sure to thank the people of Park City and Summit County as well.

"None of this would have been possible without the support from the community," said Morrison.

The growth of the Historical Society, she noted, is finally becoming a concrete reality.

"It’s amazing," she said, "because we started talking about growing the organization during the Olympics when we had so many people come through That sort of made it real."


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