The project to move and renovate the entrance to the Prosser museum started out as a plan to fix a leaking roof.
But once planning for the roof work began in earnest, Benton County Museum and Historical Society members said it was apparent there was an opportunity to do more.
The 51-year-old museum sits at the curve in the road where Seventh and Paterson streets meet, across the street from Prosser High School, in City Park.
The existing entrance faces Memorial Street, which many people consider the “back of the building,” said Alys Means, curator and director of the museum.
“The new entrance will give us far greater visibility on Seventh Street, which is the main arterial going by. When you drive by the front, the museum entrance will also be in the front, which will be a beautiful thing,” she said.
The plan is to create a new guest reception foyer area at the center of the U-shaped building at 1000 Paterson Road.
Means said the new foyer area will provide a place for visitors to be welcomed before beginning to explore the museum.
The area will provide a station for a volunteer receptionist, an additional handicapped-accessible restroom, a place to hang coats, seating area, utility closet and small kitchenette. From the foyer, visitors can turn left or right to peruse the exhibits.
“Most museums when you go in, there’s a foyer and the person says, ‘Welcome to the museum,’ and gives you a map of the museum,” Means said. The new foyer will allow visitors to watch an orientation video before touring the museum.
The museum records nearly 2,000 visits a year.
The original pole-and-metal museum building, built in 1968, was expanded in the 1980s and features 4,950 square feet, Means said.
Last winter’s roof leaks came after a series of snow storms blanketed the region.
“We have one place where the new addition butts up against the older building and it collected snow in there because it wasn’t properly attached to let snow and water drain off. I came in one morning and there was big puddle. It didn’t harm anything but could have harmed our textile collection,” Means said.
The improved roof structure will protect the building and its artifacts from water damage.
The $110,940 construction project begins in April, with completion set for September.
The museum received state and local grants to pay for the project, $100,940 from the state Community Projects Grant Program and $3,000 from the Prosser Rotary Club. The museum will contribute $7,000 from its savings toward the work.
Ken Bierlink Construction of Prosser is the general contractor.
Admission to the museum is by donation. Hours are 1-5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
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