By Terence Clarey
If it is up to the Somerville Museum Board of Trustees President, Barbara Mangum, 2013 will be a year of big things happening. With the roof replaced, and upcoming window painting and handicapped access improvements in the near future, she hopes that the museum will be able to showcase more exhibitions and host more events than before.
The roof replacement project, which began in 2008 with fundraising efforts, was completed this past December. It was a costly and time-consuming process, mainly because the building is a registered historical site.
“It was the original roof,” Mangum said. “It needed repairs, but because this is a historical building it had to be replaced in-kind with slate so it wound up being a very expensive project.”
The new roof needed a special kind of slate and the workmanship needed to be done precisely, so the building retained the original look it had when it was built in 1925 to house the growing collection of the Somerville Historic Commission. The entire project ended up costing around $220,000 and was paid for by a $104,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facility Fund and matching private donations.
The improvements and refitting don’t end there. The windows and trim need to be scraped and repainted, and this work is projected to cost another $43,000. According to Mangum, they have gotten off to a good start raising $23,000 already. “We’ve just got a $10,000 donation in addition to $13,000 from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.”
She said they hope to get the money raised by spring so they can get started on that work. In addition to replacing the roof and painting the windows, the museum is also making alterations to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
To conform to the ADA law, a hydraulic lift will be added to the entrance on Westwood Street, inside passageways will be widened to accommodate wheelchairs, and a handicap accessible restroom is under construction on the first floor. This work needs to be done by October 1, 2013, so there will be two fundraising tracks.
“We’re looking at two deadlines,” said Mangum. “One in mid-April when we need the $20,000 (for the windows and trim) and July 1 getting the remainder of the funds,” for the ADA work which is projected to cost up to $163,000.
Mangum knows the effort will be a challenge but she is hopeful the funding will come through. “Since Somerville passed the Community Preservation Act, that is an exciting grant we can apply for.”
They are also scheduling a fundraising event on March 15 and are in the process of developing a Kickstarter website effort to raise money online.
While the work and fundraising continues, the Somerville Museum has been hosting regular exhibitions. Recently the museum hosted a talk by Somerville artist John Superti to discuss his book I Cavalli di Firenze which chronicled his search for his ancestors in Italy. The exhibition included Superti’s photographs and artwork documenting his journey. They are also hosting an event called Early Music Afternoons on Sundays which showcases musical styles from English Renaissance music to jazz.
On February 24, in honor of Black History Month, Kathleen Walcott, a member of the Cambridge African American Heritage Trail Commission and Alice Mack, Somerville poet, will present a lecture on African, African American and West Indian culture and its impact on early Somerville history from 1630-1860.
Mangum is hopeful that with many people involved, they can overcome the financial obstacles and make the Somerville Museum a great place to visit in 2013.
“We want people to come out and support the Museum and help us preserve it for the next hundred years because we have big plans for this place.”
If you would like to see a calendar of upcoming events or donate the Somerville Museum, you can visit their website at www.somervillemuseum.org.