The New Jersey State Museum, where as many as 80,000 schoolchildren trekked each year before renovations began in 2004, will reopen its main building tomorrow after a $15 million overhaul.
Pinelands baskets, Puerto Rican guitars, Iranian hooked rugs, and Ukrainian embroidery will be featured in "Culture in Context: A Tapestry of Expression," the first major exhibit in the new space. The show highlights the diverse heritage of New Jerseyans.
The reopening coincides with the museum's annual Super Science Weekend for families.
The renovation, the first major upgrade on the multi-building Trenton campus since it opened in 1965, was expected to be completed in 18 months. The scope grew once work began, said Barbara Moran, the museum's executive director.
Among the improvements are a new storage system for preserving the museum's two million pieces, and windows that protect artwork and other artifacts by blocking ultraviolet rays.
Visitors will experience open exhibit spaces instead of the previous maze of smaller galleries.
"The improvements were really vital," Moran said. "We were really happy to bring this building to the wonderful state that it's in."
Taxpayers picked up the $15 million cost, financed through bonds. The Friends of the New Jersey State Museum have launched a $13 million fund-raising effort to prepare the galleries and install future exhibits at the museum, which is a division of the Department of State.
Some parts of the campus stayed open during the project. Others, including the planetarium and the ethnology and archaeology galleries, remain closed. No date is set for their reopening.
The Legislature established the museum in 1895, and today it features exhibits and education about cultural history, fine arts, archaeology, ethnology, natural history and astronomy, much of it New Jersey-related.
Before the renovation, the museum received an estimated 300,000 visitors annually, and was a favorite destination for children on school trips.
Also at the museum are a display of Rockingham-style pottery on loan from private collectors; an exhibit on powwows from the American Indian Center of Chicago; an examination of botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who created the modern scientific system for classifying plants and animals, from the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia; and paintings of New Jersey landscapes.