Hjemkomst ship display to be redesigned

city council

The Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County plans to redesign the interpretive materials that surround Robert Asp’s Viking ship, the centerpiece of the Hjemkomst Center. The city council approved the renovation plans Monday, with the proviso that all fund-raising for the project – estimated at $100,000 to $150,000 – be raised by the HCSCC.

HCSCC executive Maureen Kelly Jonason laid out the vision for the ship’s new surroundings to members of the council. The concept for the contemporary Scandinavian-inspired setting and updated explanatory materials has been developed, she said, by Brown Knows Design of Duluth. It will replace the existing panels and display cases, which she described as “a hodge podge of ideas from various staff attempting to update the ship exhibit with a very limited budget.”

The renovation plans will not add square footage, but will renovate existing space in Hjemkomst Hall. The design calls for renovations from the hallway into the Ship Gallery, where updated reading materials will line the walls. Much of the main floor space will remain open and available for groups and special events. The ship area may also be enclosed to permit better control of humidity.

Kelly Jonason cited two fund-raising goals. The $100,000 figure accommodates the plan she presented. She said that $75,000 has already been raised through grants from the F-M Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

The higher goal of $150,000 would underwrite more amenities, including moveable AV kiosks with excerpts from the ship’s audio logs and recordings of the ham radio operators. Eventually this would also fund an an interpreted 360-degree virtual reality tour of the ship’s deck. Reaching the full goal would also permit all the exhibitions to be equipped for full access by visitors who are blind and deaf through an audio-described tour with earphones and captions on all video components. HCSCC currently offers American Sign Language and hands-on tours with a two-week notice.

The director also said the society plans to redo displays in the Hoppestad Stave Church. “We’re looking at new and better interpretive materials,” she said, including “correcting errors in the 2007 displays.”

The historical group is launching a year-long fund-raising campaign. More information, along with an online donation form, is available at www.hcscconline.org.

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