New agriculture facility, digitization on the horizon for Naper Settlement
A new Naper Settlement agricultural facility has secured funding and is slated to break ground in September as part of the museum's plan to modernize and expand its homage to Naperville's rich history.
With the goals of honoring the city's roots as a farm town and educating students about the industry's future, the Agricultural Interpretive Center and Thresher Pavilion are key components of a more than $8 million project that also includes a new main entrance. The structures are set to join about 30 others on Naper Settlement's 13-acre campus at 523 S. Webster St.
Financing for the agricultural component is "solid," largely thanks to private donations and a $749,700 state grant recently awarded for the creation of a laboratory within the facility, Chief Operating Officer Harriet Pistorio said Friday in an update to the museum board. A groundbreaking is scheduled for Sept. 19, with construction expected to wrap up next May, she said.
Work on the roughly $4.4 million Innovation Gateway at Aurora Avenue and Webster Street will likely follow suit, museum officials said, noting the new welcome center is about 75% funded with some grant opportunities pending.
Ideally, construction for both buildings would be underway simultaneously, Pistorio said, but project leaders are at the mercy of government entities and their grant cycles.
"There may be more of a lag than what we were hoping, but we're still working very feverishly at getting that money in the bank," she said.
Because of the timing and location of construction, work on the agricultural center is not expected to disrupt Naper Settlement's full schedule of events this summer and fall, Pistorio said.
Bookings for weddings, community gatherings and other rentals -- not to mention the museum's own programming, concerts and events -- are picking up after more than a year of limited operations due to COVID-19 restrictions. "We're very sensitive and careful" not to cause a major disturbance, she said.
Meanwhile, Naper Settlement leaders also are preparing to take on the "significant project" of digitizing its collections, Vice President and Chief Program Officer Donna Sack said, a common industry practice in which the museum "has a lot of catching up to do."
That process will help increase accessibility to the museum's content and advance its technological learning experiences, officials said, pointing to an interactive digital wall planned within the Innovation Gateway.
"It will allow us to be able to offer our collections, our artifacts, our documents much more broadly," Sack said. "It's going to be an extensive project for us."