04/22/12 — Space cited as concern for city museum

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Space cited as concern for city museum

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 22, 2012 1:50 AM

Plans for the city's Air Force Museum have moved swiftly since the Goldsboro City Council entered a contract with Boston-based Verner Johnson, a museum consultant company, on April 2.

During the Air Force Museum Citizen's Committee meeting April 12, the entire Verner Johnson team was onhand to explain how the next phase in the consultant plan would go.

The consultants also debriefed the committee on how meetings with county stakeholders had gone the previous day.

The 17 citizens were interviewed about the Air Force museum project during five separate meetings.

Those involved included Mayor Al King, Mayor Pro Tempore Chuck Allen, David Weil, John Stokes, Cheryl Alston, Wendy Lopedot, Alan Lamm, Rick Sumner, Linda Harper, Bill Allgaier, Ed Wilson, David Quick, Chris Boyette, Bill Johnston, Charles Norwood, Wes Seegars and Jim Evernham.

The overall message taken from the stakeholder meetings, those gathered said, was one of pride in the city's relationship with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The team shared that the stakeholders also stressed that the project should have a heavy emphasis on education and should be a regional one, combining support from the city and county.

Another theme of the stakeholder discussions was that the museum could be a resource in the event of another BRAC, but as the meeting shifted to the functionality of the building and museum experience, the group expressed concerns about space.

The theme proposed for the museum was "First To Fly" as a play on the state's license plate motto, First in Flight, and the 4th Fighter Wing's history, but further discussion revealed the spatial limitations of the building, leading even to a suggestion to remove the Travel and Tourism department from the building to make more room for exhibits.

The team revealed that the $500,000 building at 2406 E. Ash St. contained about 13,500 square feet of usable space. After offices on the first and second floors were added along with a catering kitchen, community room and gift shop, the amount of functional exhibit space was about 8,000 square feet with about 1,000 square feet of that total reserved for temporary exhibit space.

Lou Sirianni, one of the firm's principals, called the facility "pretty small," in terms of museums, but said his team could help to maximize the space available.

The different team members elaborated on the space limitations, noting that there would need to be major removal of ceilings and partitions on the second floor and that there would be no storage space on the premises.

"The vault is the extent of space available," Sirianni said in response to questions about storage.

The building was built in 1971 to house a bank and served that purpose until the year 2000 when the Arts Council of Wayne County purchased it. The vault, which was used during the building's time as a bank, is still in existence and would serve as the building's only exhibit storage area.

"There's no collection involved with this museum," he said.

Sirianni explained that when temporary exhibits come in, the crates would need to be stored off-site.

"We would love to have a prep area, but we don't have the space," he explained.

That prompted citizen committee member Lou Cook to ask whether the museum's plans to house the city's newly reacquired department in the museum should be scrapped in favor of more exhibit space.

"Would we be better served leaving Travel and Tourism out of the equation?" he asked.

The city has said it plans to employ Travel and Tourism staff, currently housed at the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce office on North William Street, as support staff for the museum to be supplemented by volunteers from the community.

The floor plans call for the drive-thru teller area to be replaced with doors to serve as the museum's main entrance. The north end of the property, where the water fountain has existed during previous use, was also mentioned as a possible area for expansion with a windowed addition Sirianni called the "glass box."

When Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan asked about the water fountain, Sirianni said it should be filled in, even though Ms. Logan said there had been interest expressed in keeping the water feature.

"I don't think you want the operation costs of that fountain," he said.

The firm's public survey period is scheduled to begin sometime in the next month, when its community evaluation consultant will conduct between 50 and 100 in-person interviews, three public forums and an online community survey. The firm has said that analysis of the data and a final report will be prepared to focus the group's vision for the museum.