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Plans unveiled Thursday evening to transform former Grand Rapids Public Museum site into a "learning laboratory"

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Entranceway to former Grand Rapids Public Museum, 54 Jefferson Ave. SE, where panel discussion will be held Thurs. evening.

Entranceway to former Grand Rapids Public Museum, 54 Jefferson Ave. SE, where panel discussion will be held Thurs. evening.

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Plans to showcase the community's historical "hidden treasures" inside a new "learning laboratory" will be unveiled Thursday evening when the curatorial and interpretation staff of the Grand Rapids Public Museum presents the recently revised master plan for the museum's former building.

Marilyn Merdzinski, the museum's Director of Collections and Preservation, will moderate a panel discussion on how the museum expects to showcase some of its stored 250,000-plus artifacts, specimens and documents at the former public museum building, 54 Jefferson Ave. SE.  

Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Historical Society, the discussion will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10, at the former museum site, 54 Jefferson Ave. SE.  The free program is titled "Re-Examining the Grand Rapids Public Museum: Past, Present & Future" and open to the public.

Most of the museum's vast collections are now hidden from public view when not on display at the downtown VanAndel Museum Center, 272 Pearl St. NW that opened in 1994.

Hopes are to establish the old museum site, an Art Deco building erected more than seven decades ago, as a significant partner with local school districts, colleges, universities and other cultural institutions while routinely sharing its vast collections in new and innovative ways. 

Museum officials say the historically significant building and the museum's stored collections have both been identified and recognized as valuable but underutilized community resources.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum was founded in 1854 as the "Grand Rapids Lyceum of Natural History" and is among the oldest history museums in the United States.  It is the second largest museum in Michigan.

Other museum panel members joining Merdzinski will be Chris Carron, director of education, interpretation and research, Alex Forest, collections curator, and Veronica Kandl, research manager.  Staff members plan to not only share the museum's strategic vision but also hope to gain suggestions from the audience on how to best shape final plans for the facility.

Attendees are invited to enjoy an optional behind-the-scenes walking tour after the program to see the museum's collection storage areas.

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