The community got a glance at the initial design of the Virginia Museum of Natural History’s Waynesboro campus during a presentation Tuesday evening at The Wayne Theatre.
Joe Keiper, executive director of VMNH located in Martinsville, walked through initial design plans that included a two-floor building with a lobby, museum shop, live plants and animals, an early childhood learning center and a 1,000-square foot professional lab.
Although design concepts and layouts are subject to change through the process, Keiper said they intend to “blur the boundary” between the inside and outside of the building.
“You’ve got a lot of specific experiences on the inside with traditional museum experiences, but on the outside we can do a lot as well,” he said.
Preliminary plans include having exhibits that highlight the natural history of the Waynesboro area.
“We feel like we can come in and complement that and bring more people in (to downtown Waynesboro),” Keiper said. “It’s mission based for us, it creates a draw for citizens and hopefully overall it’s a two-way street to economic vitality for downtown Waynesboro.”
The Waynesboro campus is expected to draw in visitors from across the Shenandoah Valley, as well as even northern Virginia and eastern Virginia, Keiper said.
“This could really be a draw where people come for overnight visits, weekend visits or week-long visits and really have something to do for everybody,” he said.
The Waynesboro campus of VMNH is estimated to cost about $21 million. The General Assembly is providing funding for architectural and engineering design. The city of Waynesboro has committed $1 million toward the project, and the VMNH’s foundation has contributed an additional $2 million.
Detailed planning of VMNH’s Waynesboro campus was slated for July 1. After the necessary approvals and construction, Keiper said they were hopeful for a 2023 or 2024 opening. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has halted that plan.
“At this point we don’t know. Unfortunately all capital projects have been put on hold because of the COVID emergency, and we understand that,” Keiper said. “We’re actually trying to take advantage of the situation and hold various constituent meetings via Zoom to talk about some of the exhibits and get input.”
While Keiper says they’re playing a “patient waiting game” for now, he hopes the community will continue to support them in their Waynesboro campus endeavor.
“We have the same vision (as Waynesboro) to make a sustainable impact and prepare the next generation of students for STEM careers,” he said.
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