By MIKE DUNHAM
Diane Converse, the new director and CEO of Homer’s Pratt Museum was in Anchorage on Tuesday to talk about the museum’s expansion project. Plans call to create a new facility on the site, only about 1,000 square feet larger than the present building, but using design features to “gain a lot of operational efficiency.”
The new Pratt will have more room for collections, which are “bursting at the seams” right now, expanded parking, room for bigger historical items and more of them, room for educational and community gatherings, an extended trail system and space for “back-of-house” support — that’s the part the public doesn’t see and the biggest area of many museums; there’s none at the present Pratt.
It’s hard to believe, but the current structure had its start as part of the Alaska Purchase Centennial in 1968. It seems like just yesterday I was gawking at the fossils and artifacts between the notions and bolts of fabrics in Verna Pratt’s store.
“What happens to the old building is a matter of major concern for a lot of people,” Converse said. “There’s an emotional connection to it.” It will most likely remain and be “repurposed” for use by other community non-profits.
Converse, who took the Homer post after working in Seattle for several years, will be making more trips to Anchorage. Currently 40 or 50 museum members — or just under 10 percent of the total Pratt membership — has an Anchorage address.
But this is where the people are, and it seems clear that Converse is counting on support from big city folks who visit the lower Kenai Peninsula or have second homes in that neighborhood as well as Anchorage arts patrons in general. “We’re trying to build a base,” she said.
With luck, construction will start in 2014 and be completed in 2016. Right now the Pratt has raised $1.7 million out of the estimated full cost of $8.5 million.
That’s right; they plan to rebuilt and update one of the five or six biggest museums in Alaska, an institution of national standing and statewide importance, for about 1/20th of the cost of the new crime lab, or 2.5 percent of the recently proposed West/Romig pleasure dome.
Maybe that attention to the price tag is because the Pratt is a private non-profit organization.