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SIOUX CITY – Honoring the past. Engaging the present. Securing our future.

Those are the goals of the Sioux City Public Museum, whose mission will expand exponentially when it opens in its new building in less than a month. By all accounts, the planners hit a trifecta in designing the exciting new museum.

The grand opening will be held April 23, according to Karen Van De Steeg, and Dennis Bullock. Van De Steeg, a former mayor, is the president of the Siouxland Heritage Foundation, which has overseen the design, construction and fundraising for the project. Bullock is president of the museum’s board of trustees.

The dedication ceremony tentatively is set to begin at 10 a.m. either in the outdoor plaza or inside the museum, Steve Hansen, museum director, said. The program will be announced soon.

The completion of the $12.5 million project represents an extensive public-private partnership that began in 2005, they noted. That is the year the City Council authorized the purchase of the former JCPenney’s department store building at 607 Fourth St. and earmarked $1.5 million for the project. The heritage foundation raised the rest of the money.

The new museum features a number of inter-active displays, videos and hands-on exhibitions.

The main entrance leads into a large two-story atrium in the southwest corner of the building near Fourth and Nebraska streets.

Just inside the door, a two-store architectural drawing of one of the city’s corn palaces surrounds the entry way into the Orientation Theater. The 48-seat theater will provide an 11-minute interactive film about what can be found inside.

Near what is called The Attic is an exhibit about “Sioux City Sue.” The display includes different recording artists’ version of the famous song.

The permanent collection includes that free-standing disaster wall and exhibits on the Sioux City Stockyards and meatpacking industry, the Native American Gallery, as well as displays on Sioux City businesses and some whopper-sized vehicles.

Most of the south wall will feature a glass exterior through which artifacts and activities can be seen from outside. Flying high over the exhibits is the Kari-Keen, two-seater coupe that was manufactured at the aircraft plant in Leeds. Out of the 40 to 50 Kari-Keens that took to the skies in the early days of aviation, the craft in the museum is one of only three known to exist today.

Hansen said the new museum covers 55,000 square feet of space, providing room to showcase the majority of the museum’s permanent collections, storage for the rest and displays of traveling exhibits.

It will house everything that has found a home in the Peirce Mansion at 2901 Jackson St. since 1961, as well as all the archives and collections at the Pearl Street Research Center at 407 Pearl St. Hansen said there only was room to show about 15 percent of the collections at the mansion.

The Museum & Historical Association is overseeing the conversion of the Peirce Mansion back into a Victorian home that will be available for receptions, parties, meetings and tours, Hansen noted.

The mansion was built in 1891 by Sioux City entrepreneur John Peirce and was home to different families through the years. In 1958, the Junior League of Sioux City purchased the home for $10,000 and donated it to the city for the museum. The museum moved into the house in 19671. In 1978, the mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Holding educational classes at the Peirce Mansion was limited to a dozen or so people who met in a small backroom. Downtown, flexible classrooms can hold many more people for meetings or programs.

The new museum has room for a large temporary gallery, artifact and exhibition preparation rooms, a food prep area, archival storage, offices and a gift shop

“Our designers believe they have designed a four-hour experience,” Hansen said. “Even if you are visiting for just 60 minutes, you will get to see a lot and want to come back.”

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