Alumni Gift to Fund Peabody Structural Renovations, Increase Accessibility, Set to Reopen Winter Term

After 109 years, the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, home of one of the nation’s largest collections of Native American artifacts, will undergo several structural changes. Changes to the museum include the construction of a new staircase and a handicap-accessible bathroom and ramp on the first floor, as well as minor improvements to various storage and meeting rooms. Fire code and disability regulations dictated the need for the renovations. The Peabody’s lack of a second stairwell limited the use of the second floor to small groups and short stays in accordance with fire safety regulations. In addition, the museum needed to add an accessible bathroom and ramp to meet American Disabilities Act requirements. Malina Blustain, Director of the Peabody Museum, said, “We’ve had the need for a second stairwell to the second floor for about twenty years, and the more restricted fire codes that were recently passed only exacerbated this.” “We’ve known about these problems for years and we were fortunate enough to receive a gift specifically intended to remediate those two problems,” she continued. “I’ve seen the museum go from a very dormant building to a vibrant one that gets a lot of use by students and faculty, and I think this renovation will allow us to use Peabody even more fully,” said Blustain. “I’ve been here since 1993, so this is very exciting for me.” Marshall Cloyd ’58, Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Peabody Museum, will fund the renovations. Blustain said, “He’s been a real supporter of the Peabody for a long time now, and I think that he recognized that we were, to some extent, limited in terms of accessibility.” After applying for a construction permit, the museum recently selected a contractor and scheduled a first meeting for this Friday. “We’ll also do some other modest upgrades that were pointed out by the building and fire inspectors that will give us a fresher look once we open up,” said Blustain. The construction will also affect the museum’s structure and will require reinforcement work for the building’s basement and plumbing. The museum will also relocate artifacts and organize them in a more orderly fashion. Though the museum received approval for construction this past summer, the Peabody staff and the administration began discussing the idea last year. “We’re all heartened and excited by this. We’ve wanted this progress for so long and we’re really grateful that the school is embracing the idea with as much enthusiasm as they have been,” said Blustain. “Peabody is a truly beautiful structure, and we’re hoping that these changes will allow us to use the building more fully,” she said. The museum also plans to convert the second floor library into another classroom once the second floor can accommodate larger groups. Lindsay Randall, Museum Educator, said, “We’re hoping to make the library our second classroom because of the increase in demand from faculty.” “Whenever they revamp a history class, they specifically work the Peabody into the curriculum. Right now, having three educators for one classroom has not been sufficient since we’ve run into double and even triple bookings,” Randall continued. Blustain said, “Our primary mission right now is to integrate ourselves into the academic program, and this renovation is definitely going to further that goal.” In preparation, Peabody moved a portion of its 500,000 artifacts to avoid possible damage. The staff focused on relocating the larger, more fragile pieces such as ceramics and baskets. Blustain said, “We had to make sure that we didn’t harm the objects by moving them.” Marla Taylor, Collections Assistant, said, “A lot of things have been relocated to facilitate ease of renovation. That’s been pretty time consuming.” The relocation process began early summer and is now close to completion. Bonnie Sousa, Senior Collections Manager, said the museum moved many of the items to new, permanent locations because of the construction. Sousa said, “We’ve been able to provide a better environment for artifacts on the second floor. There’ll be a lot more room to spread out and better accessibility and everyone will be able to see the artifacts.” “We’ll be able to bring students and faculty to the organic storage and show them a lot more things that they weren’t previously able to see,” she continued. The Peabody Museum will reopen at the beginning of winter term 2010-2011. The museum also aspires to undergo further reconstruction in the future. Blustain said, “The building is going to need renewal sometime, and we’re going to want to have a small extension to the building that will allow us to create a wheel-chair accessible entrance, a workspace and a new collections space. This would be way in the future, but we’re certainly at a point where we can argue successfully for that.” Blustain estimates that the earliest date that the Peabody can receive further reconstruction would be in over five years. Taylor came up with the idea of burying a time capsule, created by work duty students, under the entrance during construction. It would be opened during the Peabody’s future renewal. “My hope for the time capsule is to capture Peabody as it is now. Since we’re going through so many changes I’d like for us to be able to say, ‘Wow, this where we were’,” Taylor said. Taylor said that she plans for the project to be student-driven. “Whatever the students want to get out of this is the direction it will go,” she said. Blustain said, “It’ll make us better able to serve our school in all our different capacities. It might be a small thing, but it’ll have a big impact, at least for us,” she continued.