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McDuffie Museum forges ahead with plans for renovation

The Board of Directors for the McDuffie Museum has been waiting seven years to open their museum, and they're still waiting. After much indefinite discussion at a meeting last Friday with the architect, board member Epp Wilson decided to quit beating around the bush.

"Can you tell me what you have done since you were here last?" Mr. Wilson said to Rob Mauldin, the president of 2KM Architects.

Mary Anne Coussons, the executive director of Camellia Partners, Inc., said the board members' are feeling the pressure to get the renovations completed because the museum is scheduled to host a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute in December, 2008.

"We are just in the beginning stages with the architect at this point, and we were hoping he could move a little faster than he is doing," Mrs. Coussons said. "Now is not the time to show us how great they are. We already knew they were good. ... That's why we chose them."

Plans for the museum began in August 2000 when a group of local individuals dedicated to preserving history met to appoint a board and to arrange initial groundwork. At that time, the SunTrust bank donated their old building on Main Street, along with the building next door, to house the museum.

In 2005, Camellia Partners, Inc. was formed for heritage preservation and economic development. Mrs. Coussons said the museum is Camellia Partners' primary project because it fills both missions.

Thanks to a grant from the Watson-Brown Foundation, Durel Consulting Partners were hired in December 2005 to form a plan for the museum, which they projected would cost $2 million. In October 2006, the museum board approved floor plans for the design of the museum, and a capital campaign began to raise funds needed for the renovation.

To date, commitments totaling $800,000 have been received, according to Mrs. Coussons.

"$800,000 is a small amount for major renovations like this," Mr. Mauldin said during Friday's meeting. "Typically, this type of project runs into hundreds of dollars per square foot."

Mr. Mauldin and two of his associates met with Mrs. Coussons, Mr. Wilson, Thomson Mayor Bob Knox, Jr., and Jay Poston, of Two State Construction, who was serving as a consultant. They addressed issues such as storage space for exhibits, a loading dock to bring in exhibit pieces and subsequent preparation space, traffic flow, parking, promotional and event space, heating and cooling ductwork, security and preserving the historical aspect of the building. Mr. Mauldin encouraged the board members to plan for future expansion.

"As soon as you move in, it's going to become too small," he said. "Just knowing the energy that is in this community and the passion of the people who are emotionally attached to this building, I know it's going to grow."

Mrs. Coussons said Mr. Mauldin gave them a lot to think about, and they plan to meet again within the next couple of weeks to finalize the plans.

Web posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007

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