IDAHO FALLS — Like a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis inside its cocoon, the Museum of Idaho has been growing and changing over the past few months. Soon, the first phase of that change will be complete.
The addition of a 20,000 square foot expansion is on track for completion in July. The expansion will house traveling exhibits and includes space for educational programming, a new store, lobby and a basement for storage.
The expansion will also move the location of the museum’s main entrance and include an outside patio and sitting area. When completed, the new expansion will make the Museum of Idaho the biggest science and history museum in the state.
Bateman-Hall, an Idaho Falls-based construction company, is building the structures for the expansion.
“(The expansion) essentially doubles the size of the museum,” Bateman-Hall project manager Rick Lawrence told EastIdahoNews.com. “And it allows for a lot of flexibility and multiple exhibits to go on at the same time.”
The expansion was designed by Roxanne Mitro of AKM Architects, Inc. Mitro worked closely with the museum’s staff during the design process, allowing her to come up with a plan to best serve their needs.
“I got to know each of their staff and what they did and how they worked,” Mitro said. “I spent time with each of them to learn what rooms they need and how they operate.”
During the design process, Bateman-Hall was there to figure out the logistics of how to physically realize Mitro’s vision.
“We added our thoughts and opinions on where we could save money and what would be more constructible or what methodologies we would use and construction means and methods,” Lawrence said.
Both Lawrence and Mitro said the expansion presented a number of challenges they needed to solve.
“One of the major challenges has been working through the winter months and trying to keep the project on schedule,” Lawrence said. “We were basically pouring concrete and erecting walls during the middle of winter.”
Lawrence said working through the winter required the company to budget specifically for winter construction as well as provide temporary coverings to keep workers warm.
Mitro said one of her biggest challenges involved tying the expansion into the existing buildings.
“We couldn’t get to close because the footings for this building were only down three feet and we wanted a basement,” she said. “So we couldn’t underpin it and have the wall collapse on us. So what we had to do was build it out further away so we wouldn’t cause damage to this building.”
Despite the challenges, the expansion project is on track to finish up right on schedule.
“As a project manager, you’re always happy to see a project finished on time,” Lawrence said. “So my excitement level is quite high.”
Once the expansion opens to the public on September 28, the other side of the museum will close down for renovation and to prep the brand new permanent “The Way Out West” exhibit. That exhibit is currently set to open in mid-2020.