By Milli Martin
I am honored to serve on the board of directors as work to write the next chapter in the Pratt Museum’s story. I want to share this exciting work with you today.
Imagine a dedicated gathering space to share stories and learn from each other. Imagine a place where a person in a wheel chair will find no barriers. Imagine a place where a researcher may examine a rich collection of artifacts, art, or historical documents any time of the year. Imagine a place where visitors may add their own experiences to an exhibit.
Homer’s national award-winning Pratt Museum is dedicated to the exploration of people and place in the Kachemak Bay region, one of the richest biological and cultural crossroads in Alaska. The Pratt has long been a gathering place for homesteaders, artists, and Native Elders, and remains a center for reflection and engagement for this community. Kachemak Bay is witnessing environmental and cultural change, transforming the fabric of life in the region. The Pratt is in the midst of an ambitious capital project that will empower it to work with its community and visitors to understand and respond to these dramatic changes.
The Pratt’s current building is aging. It has low-quality and limited gallery space and inadequate environmental systems. The new building will be 25 percent larger, integrating all activities onto one floor, and providing an exceptional experience for the Pratt’s visitors and program participants. Fully ADA-compliant, it will be an attractive and inspiring venue for museum and community events. Expanded gallery space will feature the final phase of the award-winning permanent exhibit, Kachemak Bay: An Exploration of People and Place. New exhibits on climate change, fish camp in contemporary Dena’ina life, and other themes that have recently emerged will explore pressing issues within our region.
A place where people gather to share and learn from each other, the Pratt has no space designated for lively interaction and learning: Community and education programs occur in galleries, disrupting visitors. New dedicated classroom space will prioritize learning and dialogue, and speakers and program leaders will have access to first-class presentation tools. Through in-depth study of Pratt collections, students and scholars can advance our collective understanding of the region in the new research room and new conservation lab.
The Pratt’s collections include 24,000 art, anthropology, history and natural sciences objects and are a valuable resource for education and research. The new facility will provide expanded collections storage space and much-needed state-of-the-art environmental controls. New back-of-house areas and support facilities will provide opportunities to engage curators and exhibits from across the state and nation.
Development of the Pratt’s wooded campus will showcase Woodard Creek, Homer’s largest urban stream. Wilderness qualities will remain in some areas of the site, while others will feature lively gatherings, exhibits, and performances. Trails and accessible paths will welcome individuals of diverse ages and abilities.
The new facility will maximize function, use of space, and aesthetic appeal. Energy-efficient building systems will diminish operating costs. Gallery and collections storage spaces will include advanced temperature and humidity controls, and work areas will take advantage of natural light.
The Pratt is the community’s historical anchor. The vitality of this institution contributes tangibly to local quality of life, making Homer a place where people want to live, work, and play. This project represents the largest capital initiative undertaken in Pratt history. This ambitious step will allow the Pratt to be a resource for learning and a place of meaningful conversation decades into the future. It will position the Pratt to provide critical continuity as we seek to navigate an uncertain future.
Pratt happenings behind the scenes:
Fundraising continues. With the recent state appropriation for $250,000, we’ve raised 2.4 million, 25 percent of the total budget of $9.5 million. Since completion of schematic design for the building, intensive work is underway to prepare for new exhibit space and program opportunities. Comprehensive information has been gathered from community members and visitors through meetings, surveys and interviews during the past three years, informing the new building’s design and site layout. Staff is now using this data to plan new exhibits and update education programming. Staff is also planning how best to tell the stories of this area in the galleries and on the grounds, working with and updating the Master Exhibit Plan.
Placing the gray whale skeleton at the gallery entrance will provide a dramatic beginning to ocean-related stories. The main gallery will hold long-term exhibits and two rotating galleries. In-depth evaluation of current education programs will continue for the next two years. We look forward to sharing evolving plans and listening to feedback as we progress along this exciting path, with community input sessions planned for this fall and winter and other opportunities to be involved.
Please join us as we imagine and create the next chapter in the Pratt Museum’s story. Contact Michele Miller, Development Director, to work on the capital campaign. Contact Diane Converse, Museum Director, to participate in planning projects, and contact Jennie Engebretson, Visitor Services Manager, to volunteer. Sign up for the Pratt’s monthly electronic newsletter or like us on Facebook to stay informed about what is happening.
Please join us in working towards an exciting future for the Pratt and for Homer.
Milli Martin is a longtime Homer resident and board member of the Pratt Museum.
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