A $150,000 gift from El Paso Natural Gas Co. will enable the San Diego Museum of Man to begin the first major interior renovation project in the Balboa Park museum's 70-year history, it was announced Wednesday.
Renovation has been a top priority for museum officials, who said that 90% of the museum's collections must be kept in storage for lack of exhibit space. For two years, the museum has worked on an eight-phase plan to remodel the facility.
Under the plan, the adjoining Administration Building, once declared a national historic monument but now abandoned, will house museum offices. The current offices will become gallery space, allowing part of the museum's collection to surface from an underground vault.
The entire job will cost about $2 million, but the museum will begin work with the gas company donation.
Before museum offices can be moved to the Administration Building, architectural drawings must be approved by the city and bids must be taken, said Doug Sharon, museum director.
"This process takes a lengthy time," he said. "We're a private, nonprofit museum in a public building in a public park."
The $150,000 donation by the Texas-based company, which has 80% of its business in California, will be used to shape the museum's West Wing North into a gallery for the May 5 opening of the Rockefeller Mexican Folk Art Collection--artifacts from the late Nelson Rockefeller's collection donated to the Mexican Museum in San Francisco in 1985.
This space, now divided into two galleries by a temporary wall, will be made into one large gallery, museum spokesmen said. Also, lighting will be improved, carpet and showcases will be installed, and walls will be resurfaced.
The gallery will be named the "El Paso Natural Gas Gallery of the Peoples of the Southwest," Sharon said.
Other renovation phases include remodeling adjacent galleries, the main floor, balconies and an exhibit area across the street. The museum will seek private and federal grants to pay for the work, Sharon said.
"The Master Plan has been sitting here waiting to go," Sharon said. "This grant from El Paso Natural Gas is the catalyst for the renovation of the museum."
The Museum of Man shows anthropological exhibits of early man.