CHEMISTRY TO KIDS
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
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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© 1999 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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