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New Home for Nome Museum, Library Inches Closer

The 15-year push to give Nome’s museum and library a new home inched closer to completion Wednesday, as prep work for the new structure continued and first steps were taken to design the museum’s inside.

“At this point in time the team is looking now to what goes on inside the building,” said Brian Wakelin with Public, a Vancouver, Canada-based design firm helping create new exhibits for the 8,000 square feet the new museum will eventually occupy.

Wakelin said expanding the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum is about telling Nome’s story by shaping how people move through the new building, an experience he said needs to be crafted and built as carefully as the museum itself.

“It’s about designing an experience,” Wakelin said. “We use space to do that, we use exhibits to do that, we use atmosphere to do that. Those are things you have to gather and sort of seek out by being there yourself.”

Visiting Nome allowed Wakelin and others involved in the project to meet with Nome residents, to discuss their thoughts on what the museum should include. The museum director, Laura Samuelson, also gave the visiting designers through a tour of the current museum, as well as a glimpse at items in the museum’s collection that currently can’t be displayed due to space limitations.

“We’re gonna have a lot more room to tell Nome’s story,” Samuelson said of the new museum and library space. “Our new gallery will be … the size of Old St. Joe’s as we know it today, and half again larger.”

As Wakelin met with Nome residents in an open house on Tuesday to discuss what should be inside the new building, lead architect Brian Meissner said the site for structure itself—on the north end of Steadman Street—should be cleared and have utilities piped in by the end of the summer.

That puts the building on schedule to break ground by the end of the 2014 construction season.

“We want to be able to (have) materials in Nome in time for a contractor to start assembly of the building this fall, when the site’s ready,” Meissner said.

If all goes according to plan, Meissner said the new building could be completed by the end of 2015, with enough time to get the library moved in before the end of that year.

The city museum and Kawerak’s Beringia museum would follow in 2016.