JEFFERSON — In addition to excessive heat, the summer months were supposed to bring the grand reopening of the Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson.
Unfortunately, that date has been pushed back to fall.
Although this marks the second time that the reopening has been postponed — originally it was supposed to happen in March — staff say visitors shouldn’t be alarmed because the museum will reopen.
"This has always been a very large project," said Lesa Campbell, who is the project manager. "It just has taken us longer than we expected to complete."
Because the museum’s three buildings are so old — two date back to the 1800s — the renovation work has required specialized contractors, which has slowed down the process.
"You would think that the (poor) economy would have helped us find (out-of-work) contractors, but because the contractors that we need are so specialized, they are in high demand and we’ve had to wait until they are available," said Campbell.
Among other things, contractors have had to stabilize the structures’ foundation, repair masonry work and also replace the roof.
Despite needing an extended time table, the project is still under budget, which is being covered by a $200,000 USDA grant, Campbell said.
In addition to renovating the actual structures, the project also includes overhauling the museum’s exhibit. Upon reopening, the museum will feature new color displays and also additional exhibit area located on the second floor, which had most recently been used as office space.
"The museum exhibits haven’t been updated since the 1980s. They did the best they could with the technology that was available, but things have changed so much since then," said Campbell. "Today’s museum exhibits are all about interpretation, so we’re updating everything to add more color and more information so that visitors get more from their visit."
The museum is named after Crawford W. Long, who was the first to use ether as an anesthesia during an operation in Jefferson in 1842. That procedure has been recorded as the first use of medical anesthesia in history.
Half of the downstairs exhibit will feature detailed information about Long’s education and background, while the other half will feature information about his family. The upstairs portion will be dedicated to the history of anesthesia.
In addition to the new colored information panels along the walls of the museum, staff will also display various medical artifacts in acrylic cubes throughout the space.
"In the 1840s (when Long performed the historical operation), Jefferson was pretty much a frontier town," Campbell said. "We want to put things in perspective for visitors, especially children. Fortunately, we have a vast amount of artifacts to choose from, so we want to select the pieces that tell the best story. But even with the additional delays, we hope to open in October."