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The Right Approach


FROM CHEMISTRY TO KIDS

Gary Gold

The Winslow Building will be home to Troy's Junior Museum.

The Winslow Building, the only remaining edifice of the Rensselaer campus from the late 19th century, is finding new life thanks to a bold plan to convert the building to a children's museum. The museum, devoted to science and discovery, has always had a strong core of Rensselaer faculty and staff as volunteers and board members. Now the tie will become even stronger when the museum becomes a next-door neighbor.
 "We have a natural connection and that is to get young minds interested in science early and make them eager to begin a lifelong pursuit of scientific discovery and application. That is really what we're both all about," says John Kolb '79, dean of computing and information services at Rensselaer and a longtime board member ofthe Junior Museum. Other board members include Kolb's classmates, Mary Skevington '79, director of marketing for Flow Management Technologies, and Barb Nelson '80, a project manager in Rensselaer's office of campus planning and facilities design, and Shirley Molloy, secretary of the Institute.
 "If we can extend some of the university's expertise to the Junior Museum, we have an opportunity to create a world-class model for collaboration that others can replicate," Kolb says.
 Originally built in 1866 for $10,000, half of which came from John Flack Winslow, a Rensselaer trustee and Troy iron manufacturer, the Winslow Chemical Laboratory was damaged by fire in 1904 and expanded to its present size by 1912. It was converted to classrooms during the Korean War. Long deserted, it was slated to be razed in 1993.
 Designated a Historic Landmark in 1994, Winslow was leased to the Junior Museum by Rensselaer in 1994 for $1 per year for 99 years. "It's amazing, the possibilities inherent in this move," says Ralph Pascale, director of the Junior Museum. Pascale hopes the close proximity to the Institute will strengthen ties between the museum and Rensselaer, especially in scientific and environmental fields. "This is a very special opportunity for Troy and the Capital Region. The new facility will form a bridge between the educational resources of the community."
 Donald Watson, professor and former dean of architecture at Rensselaer, serves as the project's design architect. Watson, who has spent much of his professional career studying best practices at environmental nature centers and children's museums, says that "developing the new educational philosophy so that everyone learns from the experiences is as important to us as the physical construction." Barbara Harris '88 contributes as an exhibit designer, and Naomi Miller, manager of design applications in Rensselaer's Lighting Research Center, is responsible for the lighting design.
 The new museum, expected to open next year, looks forward to increasing its space fivefold over its current North Troy location. It is expected to generate an estimated economic impact of $5 million per year for the Capital Region as it anticipates hosting some 200,000 visitors annually. More than $3.5 million already has been raised by a capital campaign. At the construction ground-breaking ceremony on Sept. 16, 1998, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno announced that the state legislature had increased its commitment to $2 million.
 Design for the renovation calls for as much reuse of existing materials as possible. Most of the current structure will remain intact, though some heavy timbers and iron columns have been removed and recycled. The top floor has a large vaulted space with historic trusses that will be left exposed. The original wood decking beneath the roof, visible through the trusses, will also be left intact and exposed. Much natural light will illuminate the interior, making use of tall window openings.
 Exhibits being planned include a Digistar II planetarium, a Hudson River habitat, a rain forest habitat, and of course the musuem's popular live animals. A cafe will overlook downtown Troy and the Hudson River Valley through large windows and from an outdoor deck. Internationally renowned artist Tom Lucky has been commissioned to design an ivylike climbing sculpture for the entrance, located on the northern facade.

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