Fairbanks Museum breaks floor on $5M addition

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) – It was a historic day for a historic museum in St. Johnsbury. The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium broke floor Wednesday on a brand new annex undertaking that goals to make the constructing extra accessible to everybody, the primary new addition in additional than 120 years.

As the rain got here down in St. Johnsbury Tuesday morning, the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium broke floor on their new addition. The wet day was an ideal analogy for a undertaking stuffed with logistical challenges.

“It has never quite gone according to plan — at no point. It has always taken longer and been harder but it has always worked out in the end,” mentioned museum government director Adam Kane.

The 6,000 square-foot Tang Science Annex has been within the works since 2016 however talked about for practically 20 years now. It’ll add new house for hands-on displays — and most significantly — accessibility.

Artist's rendering
Artist’s rendering(Photo supplied)

“When the Fairbanks opened its doors in 1891, accessibility was just not something that was contemplated, so in order to get to the balcony there are staircases, some spiral staircases, that are lovely but wildly inaccessible,” Kane mentioned. He says the museum was lengthy overdue for an improve. The final addition was in 1895. This one brings the museum into the fashionable age. “So, you get to have the Victorian cabinet of curiosities exhibits that people have always known juxtaposed with this dynamic space of hands-on activities.”

It provides not simply the elevator but additionally extra exhibit house upstairs, and a balcony. And down within the basement, a renovation will enable the Community College of Vermont to find its St. Johnsbury web site. The $5 million undertaking is paid for by a mix of federal, state, and neighborhood funding.

“No one said it would be easy,” mentioned Congressman Peter Welch, who was amongst those that fought for funding for the brand new house. He says it represents a type of renaissance for the city. “What we have here is St. Johnsbury, returning to its roots of science, invention, and community. That’s really how I see it.”


The undertaking will embody using mass timber, a composite wooden product that can be utilized as a substitute for concrete or metal. The museum even has an exhibit all about it proper now to teach folks in regards to the product that some say will revolutionize buildings. It’s made from cross-laminated jap hemlock from forests in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Officials on the groundbreaking talked about how building like this will help reinvigorate the native forest economic system and make building extra eco-friendly.

“Imagine institutions and eventually cities being built with this instead of with concrete. The savings are huge, the environmental benefits are huge. And this new market also results in sustainable forest management because it will reduce the forest fuels and the wildfire risk,” mentioned the USDA’s Sarah Waring.

They’re hoping the brand new constructing will likely be a mannequin for others to think about using mass timber expertise.

The building is predicted to be completed by subsequent spring.

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