SM LIBRARY — After a nearly two-year delay, the much anticipated construction of the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum will begin next month.
The new headquarters for the nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1975 during the planning for the city’s centennial celebration, will be located on the east side of the Santa Monica Public Library in a space that has long been reserved for the museum.
Once slated to open in late 2007, the project was postponed because of a combination of factors, including a longer than expected design process and fundraising challenges, which can be attributed to the recession.
Approximately $1.3 million has been raised toward the new museum, which is estimated to cost about $2.3 million. The museum, whose space will be provided by City Hall at no rent, is now scheduled to open in October.
“After the museum is finished, it will become the crown jewel of Santa Monica,” said Louise Gabriel, the museum president and CEO.
The capital campaign has been endowed with several large donations, including $250,000 from Morley Builders. Gabriel and her late husband Bob, former Evening Outlook Owners Ron and Ann Funk, and Dr. John E. Gilmore have all donated at least $100,000 a piece. Boeing Aircraft has also given money to the campaign, along with Santa Monica Place owners Macerich Co.
“Just in the beginning it came in very good but later on it was difficult,” Gabriel said. “The museum is for the community and it would be nice if they would give their support.”
At roughly 5,000 square feet, the new center will be about double the size of the existing museum on Euclid Street, providing more room for the historical society’s vast collection of photos, letters, diaries and other documents.
The new museum will feature different galleries for permanent and temporary displays, multimedia interactive exhibits, and the full collection of the Santa Monica Evening Outlook edition. The histories of Venice and Malibu, which have their own historical societies but not museums, will also be a fixture.
“It is really going to bring in the public,” said Kristina Andreson, the project architect. “We have visitors to Santa Monica and it will help them learn the incredible history of the entire region, not only Santa Monica.”
The historical society has been housed in four different locations since its inception, including on the Third Street Promenade and Colorado Avenue. The museum is currently housed at 1539 Euclid St. where it has leased its space from Family Services of Santa Monica for the past 15 years.
The new location will also result in more walk-in traffic, museum director Ho Nguyen said.
“We’re always expanding and growing and we realized that the current space location is OK, but it’s in a residential location where we’re not easily findable by our tourists and our residents,” Nguyen said.
He added that the location will also lead to more collaboration between the historical society and the public library where several exhibits will also be placed.
“The founding members have worked hard to make this a dream come true for us and the community,” Nguyen said.
Gabriel, who has been involved with the museum since its inception, described it as such.
“It’s taken a lot of work along the road and a lot of dedication but we have one of the finest museums,” she said.