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The New Jersey State Museum: The Main Building is Back with a Breathtaking New Exhibit

TRENTON.- The Main Building of the New Jersey State Museum (State Museum) reopens today after completing important environmental upgrades and renovations to enhance exhibitions and collection preservation capabilities. A series of exhibitions, special events and programs showcasing entirely new experiences, as well as the Museum’s four distinct collection areas – Archaeology / Ethnology, Cultural History, Fine Art and Natural History – are the focal point of this first phase of the reopening, with elements for visitors of all ages and ranging interests from a Georgia O’Keeffe painting to fossil discoveries, Japanese Origami dolls to Barnegat Bay decoys, colorful Lenox plates to Native American powwows.

“The New Jersey State Museum is so pleased that this first phase of construction including major infrastructure upgrades is complete. This project ensures the preservation of the Museum’s renowned collections, provides appropriate environments for the installation of world class traveling exhibitions, and enhances the comfort and security of our visitors,” says Barbara Moran, executive director, New Jersey State Museum. “The first phase of our reopening combines our rich collection with entirely new experiences, unveils views of the Delaware River previously hidden by the building’s architecture, and programming that includes dozens of educational and cultural events for schoolchildren, families and adults, making the Museum Campus a wonderful destination this spring and well beyond.”

Culture in Context – Reopening Exhibition
The reopening’s exhibition centerpiece, Culture in Context: A Tapestry of Expression, examines and celebrates New Jersey’s rich cultural tapestry through an exhibition, performances, demonstrations and workshops. The exhibition features over two dozen artists and art forms from around the world that have found a home in New Jersey or that have developed because of the unique geography of the state. The artists have participated in the Folk Arts Apprenticeship Grant Program of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, which supports apprentices as they perfect their skills in traditional arts under the watchful eye of master artists from communities throughout the region. Six of the artists included are recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellow Award.

Culture in Context was developed by guest curator Rita Moonsammy and is on view through fall 2008 on the second floor of the Museum’s Main Building. The exhibition is presented by the New Jersey State Museum/NJ Department of State and co-sponsored by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/NJ Department of State (a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts), and New Jersey Network Public Television and Radio. Support for the exhibition and its programming has been provided by The Bunbury Company, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Friends of the New Jersey State Museum, Merrill G. & Emerita E. Hastings Foundation, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, New Jersey Historical Commission, New Jersey Council for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts and the Hyde & Watson Foundation.

Super Science Weekend
The State Museum will host the 28th annual Super Science Weekend in conjunction with the reopening weekend (May 17 & 18). Housed among the grounds outside the Museum and on the first floor of the renovated Main Building, Super Science Weekend invites visitors to engage in hands-on, fun-filled activities from more than 30 science organizations that explore paleontology, archaeology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, biology, ecology and many other interesting fields. Young children will enjoy the Jurassic Moon Bounce, plus a variety of stimulating activities including making green slime with the American Chemical Society and taking a picture with a costumed “Haddy” in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the discovery of Hadrosaurus foulkii, the Official State Dinosaur of New Jersey. Super Science Weekend is sponsored in part by the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum and funded by PSEG.

Additional Projects and Exhibitions
Beginning June 7, the first floor gallery of the Main Building will be home to Art of Creation. Focusing primarily on fine and decorative arts, this project serves to reintroduce the Museum’s collections, including rarely seen and newly acquired works. The central theme of the project is creation and creating, both man-made and natural, with objects presented in artistic groupings. The opening of Art of Creation coincides with the Trenton Heritage Days Festival Weekend.

While renovations took place in the Main Building, the State Museum continued providing exhibitions, as well as related programming, throughout the Museum Campus. These galleries will continue to be a part of the State Museum experience and currently offer diverse exhibitions ranging from taxidermy mounts that explore Linnaean systematics to exhibitions that take a historic look at Trenton.

“The People’s Museum” Public-Private Partnership
As the State Museum continues transforming itself into a truly 21st century cultural resource with new public spaces, exhibition areas and interactive educational programs, the institution is collaborating on a fundraising campaign being led by the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum (Friends). Friends is a nonprofit, membership-based organization formally founded in 1968 with the mission of supporting the State Museum through fundraising, volunteerism, collections and education programs. The fundraising efforts are off to a strong start with donations from the likes of PSEG, which will sponsor the exhibition Rising Tide coming in 2009. Other corporations, foundations and individuals have also made contributions including AT&T, Atlantic City Electric and The Horizon Foundation of New Jersey. This public-private partnership provides great opportunities for the people of New Jersey to support the State Museum, often referred to as the “People’s Museum.” To join Friends or make a contribution go to:

The Renewed State Museum
During the past four years the Main Building of the New Jersey State Museum underwent its first significant renovations since opening in 1965. The $15 million infrastructure upgrade, funded by the state, included renovation of the building’s HVAC system, installation of new electric, lighting and security systems, asbestos remediation, and improvements to the building envelope. The creation of a new glass curtain wall, windows and doors, as well as a redesign of collection facilities better protect the Museum’s renowned collections and enables the State Museum to attract and offer world-class exhibitions.

Renovations to exhibition areas have also begun. Architectural changes to the first floor unveiled floor to ceiling windows, which are now UV protected and offer spectacular views of the Delaware River as a vibrant backdrop to exhibitions and events held in the space. The first floor will be used for changing exhibitions, as well as performance and other events. Additional visitor amenities including a café and gift shop will be added to the first floor during a future phase of work. The remaining space is dedicated to the building’s lobby.

The east end of the Museum’s second floor currently features Culture in Context, and during the next phase of work will be transformed into the home of the Fine Art permanent collection galleries. Future renovation efforts to the west end of second floor will include upgrades to the Natural History Hall, as well as to the Riverside (lecture and meeting space) and Cityside (New Jersey Artist Series) galleries.

The exhibition The World Around Us currently inhabits gallery space on the third floor of the Main Building. This will be the future home of the Cultural History permanent collection gallery. The Museum’s lower level includes space for education programming, galleries that explore Native American history and a new Ethnographic gallery. Also located on the lower level is the Museum’s famed Planetarium, including exhibition space and theater, which will be refurbished during future phases of the Museum’s revitalization.

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