Iron beams and concrete wall are now in place as progress is made on the new addition to the National Music Museum on the campus of the University of South Dakota. The museum’s 4,000 musical instruments and thousands of other materials, equipment and furniture have been safely relocated to the museum’s new Center for Preservation and Research.

VERMILLION — The much-anticipated renovation and expansion of the National Music Museum (NMM) in Vermillion is underway and on schedule according to the museum’s manager of communications, Patricia Bornhofen.

“There are actually two buildings that are part of this whole expansion,” Bornhofen said. “The main one of course is the Carnegie Building where the National Music Museum is. That right now is absolutely under construction.”

According to Bornhofen, the status seems to be so far so good with projected completion in 2021.

“This whole process of expanding and renovating is doing well,” she said. “We’re always at the mercy of weather and general circumstances that you can’t control.”

Those traveling down Clark Street will notice not only a different flow of foot traffic but scaffolding, ironwork and concrete walls going up.

According to Bornhofen, the Carnegie building itself will undergo more internal changes while the most visible right now is the West-side addition.

“The new part will contain the atrium, the administrative area and various other facilities,” Bornhofen said. “That’s going up right now and it’s going well. We have been very fortunate because we didn’t get hit here in this part of Vermillion with the kind of flooding that happened in the region.”

The construction on the addition began without a formal groundbreaking ceremony so the crew could get to work as soon as possible.

First, though, the 4000 musical instruments plus thousands of other materials, equipment and furniture needed to be safely relocated to the other part of the expansion- the Center for Preservation and Research.

“Maybe people were flabbergasted that it was going to take this much time to finish with the entire project and particularly it would take a whole year to move the collection,” Bornhofen said. “That included recording every object for inventory and other purposes, then making special packaging and crating and boxing and casing, then doing this elaborate puzzle of moving everything around to get at every object then moving everything over to that preservation area.”

Bornhofen stated that this had to be done with extreme care and security.

“Finally it’s done and that preservation center has quite an amazing layout,” she said. “You have so many keyboards, they have to be laid out to save maximum space but leave enough space around them for safety and security.”

Moving was concentrated, beginning in August with the last object placed in the building on Sept. 5 according to Bornhofen.

“We have some instruments that have gone under special security in other situations,” Bornhofen said.

“Renaissance and baroque instruments, nine of those have gone to Cremona Italy. The reason that we did that was not only to give them the chance to have much more exposure and give the museum itself more recognition but also to give those instruments the same sort of security and the same climate control they’d have here.”

More information on the Italian exhibition will be contained in an upcoming press release.  

“For one year they’re going to be there,” Bornhofen said. “It’s perfect for all those instruments because they all originated from Cremona Italy. The name of the exhibit is ‘Reunion in Cromona.’ It’s very cool and getting nice attention and will more and more.”

Other instruments belonging to the NMM’s collection will exhibit in other places during the expansion project such as Greenville, South Carolina, according to Bornhofen.

There will also be some local exposure as well.

“We will be doing more popup exhibits while we’re closed to let people know we’re alive and well,” Bornhofen said. “The museum as an entity, even though the brick and mortar situation is not available to people, we’re online, very much active on social media, very much here and working and still have a collection curated as ever.”

According to Bornhofen, the museum will also continue its monthly concert series with performances taking place in Farber Hall on the University of South Dakota campus.

“That’s a bigger space so we can bring in some acts that have to have a few more performers sometimes for a bigger sound,” Bornhofen said. “It’s an opportunity we didn’t have before.”

Around $9.5 million was raised by the NMM board of trustees for the construction part of the project through private donations and contributions from the university and the state.

The fundraising, however, is far from over according to Bornhofen.

“We currently have a campaign underway right now to fund the interior design,” Bornhofen said. “I think there was some talk of around $10 million to match the exterior but I think the reality is whatever we will take. We also want to fund the preservation center. We’re currently leasing that building from the VCDC and we would like to purchase it at some point which would require funding which then we’re raising.”

The effort will be worth it according to Bornhofen.

“I’m so excited to see the exhibit redesign and also the aesthetic novelty,” she said. “We will have a lobby area that will have incoming light and will be a nice entrance and introduction to the museum. I’m most excited to see the stories of these instruments told in a fresher exciting way. If people ever walked into the museum and not understood the importance of any object that we have out there, I hope in its new contextualization that they will really get it and understand why something is displayed.”

With the new exhibit redesign including permanent and rotating galleries, Bornhofen hopes people who visit will want to come again and again, always experiencing something new along with old favorites.

“It’s a brand new chapter for the museum,” Bornhofen said. “Hopefully this will elevate it even more to the level it deserves and it will have a lot more recognition, more visitors than ever and people who have been there before will see something very different yet still see some of the same instruments they expect to see.”

With that vision in mind, Bornhofen said the NMM staff including new director, Matt Collinsworth, is working tirelessly to keep things running smoothly during the expansion project.

“[Collinsworth] has hit the ground running,” Bornhofen said. “He’s come from an art background, has done a lot of arts administration for different types of organizations including art museums and he really understands what it means to be a director.”

Bornhofen herself is working on the promotion side of things including thinking about the grand opening, though there will still be much to do even after the construction is done.

It will include juggling the 15,000-instrument collection and sorting out what goes back into the museum for display and what gets consolidated and stored in the preservation center.

“It will be a process moving everything back in but we think it will be much smoother,” Bornhofen said. “Part of the reason we’re expanding and improving is to reassert the magnitude of our collection and say that this is really worthy of being seen in a facility that is fitting to it. What we want is for it to be a pilgrimage for anyone who loves music, or just arts and culture.”

For more information and updates on the National Music Museum expansion, visit nmmusd.org or follow the National Music Museum on Instagram or Facebook.

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