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Museum to add new building, trails

Master plan also calls for more gardens, more rooms for exhibits

By Josette Keelor

WINCHESTER -- In a "master plan" that will implement four phases over 10 years, The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley announced Thursday a revival of its property that will all but change its mission statement and how it will relate to the community.

According to Julie Armel, director of marketing and public relations, the museum's focus will remain with the community.

"The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is dedicated to preserving and enriching the ... heritage of the valley," she said. That mission "encompasses past, present and future."

But while the museum has offered various exhibits in its galleries and access to its widespread gardens, including the Glen Burnie Gardens on its property, its plans include an education and arts building, hiking and walking trails that expand into the community, additional rooms for exhibits and more gardens.

The first phase of the project includes a layered system of walking and hiking trails on the museum property, according to a press release from the museum.

"A primary trail network will be suited for walking, biking, and strollers, while a secondary trail network featuring mulch paths will take visitors on a more strenuous journey through the site's topography."

The museum also plans to work with the City of Winchester to extend the city's Green Circle Trail along the perimeter of the property,

The proposed Green Circle Trail would connect James Wood Middle School to John Kerr Elementary School and Jefferson Street neighborhood.

Work on Phase One is already underway, and the Glen Burnie House will reopen in May 2014, complete with wheelchair and stroller accessibility.

Director Dana Hand Evans said Thursday that the goal will allow museum staff to increase access to attractions, be good stewards in the community and build a family atmosphere.

New and bigger is great, she said, but "what we needed to do is care for what we already had."

Phase Two is the most ambitious part of the master plan. Beginning in 2016, it will include a dramatic new entrance road to the site, satellite parking, walking trail access and restrooms. This phase will include the completion of the Arts and Education Building to increase the museum's capacity to host lectures, events and private rentals.

Architect Mike Rossetti with Arentz Landscape Architects said in his designs he wanted to reorient visitors who currently approach the Glen Burnie House at the back to instead follow a new path around to the front door.

And the gardens, which he said are "showing their age," will get a face-lift. "They're really being loved to death."

An outdoor amphitheater will host concert events on site and an existing barn will allow for a hands-on area for youth.

Chuck Swartz with Reader & Swartz Architects said what he imagines is a "much larger, richer, more inclusive experience."

Outside the amphitheater will be a new parking lot in the same place as the old one, but with better efficiency and design to "get you out of the car and into the space," he said.

"This is going to be the new point of contact for the whole experience," said Swartz.

Also, based on an original design of the museum grounds designed by Julian Wood Glass Jr., the museum will build a Gothic Folly structure with water features.

Phase Three of the development involves the reworking of existing spaces in the museum building, including the relocation of the museum store and café to the current reception hall space. The existing store space will convert to an orientation room, and the café will become additional classroom space. Finally, Phase Four will expand gallery and collections storage spaces in the museum.

As Swartz put it, "It's all about the campus as a whole. In the new amphitheater, "this could be a great place for celebrations."

But what he seemed particularly excited about was that from the new courtyard between the Arts and Education Building and the museum, visitors can look right through the windows and see the other side of the campus.

"You know where you are," he said. "The mission is to be relevant to folks now and in the future."

For more information about the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley or its master plan, call 540-662-1473, ext. 225, or visit www.themsv.org.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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