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Concord Museum plans $13m expansion and renovation

Founded in 1886, the Concord Museum has seen tremendous growth in the last five years.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File 2008

Thousands of visitors flock to the Concord Museum each year to see historic artifacts ranging from Henry David Thoreau’s humble desk to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book-lined study. Soon, they’ll have more room in which to learn and explore.

The museum’s Board of Governors has voted to build a new education building and renovate the museum. The $13 million project is the result of a five-year strategic and campus master planning process.

“We are simply bursting at the seams,” Margaret Burke, the museum’s executive director, said in an interview.

Founded in 1886, the museum has seen tremendous growth in the last five years, particularly in its education programs. At around 12,000 students, enrollment is nearly double what it was in 2011.


Construction will begin on a new 12,900-square-foot education building in late winter or early spring 2017, museum officials said, with completion slated for early 2018. In addition to serving student programs, the new building will also be used for adult and family programs, teacher workshops, and community meetings.

“We want to be a leader in history education and encourage more high quality education programs,” Burke said.

The first floor of the new building will house new classrooms and public program space, including a lyceum that can seat up to 110 people.

The second floor will be reserved for storage — the museum currently rents storage space offsite for its expanding collection — and the third floor will contain staff offices. Part-time staff now work staggered hours because the museum does not have enough work space.

The current administration building, built in 1980, will be torn down to make way for the new addition and a glass corridor that will connect to the exhibit space. Parking will also be reconfigured and increased.

After the addition is finished, the existing exhibit space will be renovated and the visitor area enhanced.


The final architectural plans will be released in mid-January. The museum has raised $9.4 million toward a goal of $13 million — $10 million for construction costs and $3 million for the endowment to support expanded programs and services.

With the new educational space, the museum will be able to double the number of students it serves. Currently, programs are reserved for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Burke said she hopes to expand offerings to high school students and adults.

“We also want to do more with kids in poor communities,” said Burke. “We want to connect with kids that don’t generally get to come to a place like the Concord Museum.”

The Paul Revere’s Ride Fund is an existing program that provides free buses and admission to fifth graders in the Lowell Public Schools. With the new building, Burke hopes to expand the program to schools in Lawrence and Everett.

The project has already been approved by the town’s Historic Districts Commission, Natural Resources Commission, Planning Board, and Zoning Board of Appeals. The museum’s location in a residential neighborhood, historic district, and next to wetlands required special approvals from the town.

“This is not a minor thing that we’ve done,” said Burke. “It’s going to completely transform the way we do business. I think it will be really helpful for tourism in Concord, where we have a wonderful community [of historical sites] where everyone supports each other.”

Debora Almeida can be reached at