The state Military Museum and Veterans Research Center is closed for the rest of the month so that old, heavy steel doors on the former Lake Avenue Armory can be replaced with glass doors.
“It will be a lot more welcoming,” said Michael Aikey, museum director.
“These are heavy doors,” Aikey said about the decades-old doors at the museum at 61 Lake Ave.
Work started on the $175,000 project last week. J.M. Zalinka & Co. of Watervliet is the general contractor for the project.
Aikey said the old doors will actually be replaced by two different sets of glass doors.
One set of doors will be located where the steel doors were and another set of door will be installed in front of these creating a small, enclosed foyer.
“It will be more handicapped accessible,” Aikey said. The new doors will have push buttons on them so they can be opened automatically.
In addition, the museum will see the return of a set of iron gates to the doorway area, replicating part of the armory’s original design.
The former Lake Avenue Armory, which was used by the New York National Guard and other state military units for more than 100 years, was designed by Isaac Perry and built in 1889. The state military museum opened in the building in October of 2002.
Lt. Col Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman for the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, said the military museum building is an excellent example of the armory architecture that was popular in New York State in the late 1800s.
He said these armories were large brick, “castle-like,” structures that were built across the state at that time.
Aikey said the military museum and veterans research center will reopen on or about Oct. 1. The museum charges no admission fee.
Visitors to the museum will be able to see a new exhibit next month that includes artifacts from and the history of the Battle of Valcour Island, which is regarded as the first naval battle ever fought by the U.S. Navy. The island is in Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh.
A fleet commanded by Benedict Arnold was defeated by a British fleet on the lake, but the battle was credited with delaying for a year an attempt by the British to cut the Colonies in half, and allowed American forces to build up their strength and defeat the British at the Battles of Saratoga the following year, according to the Army Historical Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the American soldier.
The traveling exhibit is currently on display at the Saratoga National Historical Park visitor center in the town of Stillwater.
An old cannon from the Revolutionary War nautical battle of Oct. 11, 1776, will be on display along with text and maps detailing the conflict, he said.
Aikey said museum officials are also discussing a new exhibit that has been proposed on the work of World War II combat photographer W. Eugene Smith.
“We are in the discussion stage right now,” Aikey said.
The sluggish economy and increase in gas prices compared to 2007 has had an impact on museum attendance.
“We are down a bit from last year,” Aikey said about museum visitors.
Aikey said the recent cutbacks in state spending have had a $50,000 impact on the museum’s operating budget.
“We are just waiting to see what happens,” Aikey said about other possible state funding cutbacks.
The museum is operated by the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs in partnership with the New York State Military Heritage Institute.
The museum houses more than 10,000 artifacts dating from the Revolutionary War to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that relate to the state’s military forces and military history as well as the contributions of soldiers from New York State.
The artifacts include uniforms, weapons, artillery pieces, and art. A significant portion of the museum collection is from the Civil War.
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Categories: Schenectady County