Laura Hickle of the China Lake Museum Foundation performs an unofficial first opening of the front door for the China Lake Museum’s future home. The first building, comprised of four modular units, will serve as the first phase of the new site, which is scheduled for a Fall 2017 opening.
Laura Hickle opened the door to one of the four prefabricated units sitting on a dirt parcel on a sunny July morning on East Las Flores Avenue in Ridgecrest, triggering the latest in a series of long steps marking the goal of moving the US Naval Museum of Armament and Technology from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake to Ridgecrest.
The four units arrived Wednesday and Thursday of that week, and work began Friday on putting them together into one building that will host the first stage of the museum’s new site. Opening of the new location is anticipated in Fall 2017.
“This will allow us to have a location in town, especially for those who are not able to get on base,” Hickle, the China Lake Museum Foundation’s grant writer, said.
The roughly 2,880-square-foot prefab unit will be home to a gift shop and space for 23 of the museum’s exhibits. The building sits on a five-acre parcel leased from Kern County, adjacent to the Maturango Museum. The second phase, which will host the main museum, will be a 10,000-square-foot building. The displays not housed in the new 2,300- square-foot building will remain at the facility on base until Phase 2 is built.
The China Lake Museum currently occupies a building aboard NAWS China Lake at 1 Pearl Harbor Way. The museum houses exhibits detailing the history of the Navy’s mission at China Lake and the various weapons and weapons systems tested and designed on its ranges. Those projects include the Walleye TV-guided glide bomb and the Shrike missile.
Creative exhibits like this one in the U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology give visitors a unique look at the developing history of modern Naval aviation armament. The museum is building a location off base to allow for greater access.
U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY GEOFFREY PATRICK - RELEASED
The China Lake Foundation, the volunteer nonprofit organization established in 1993, supports and oversees museum operations, has long wanted move into Ridgecrest, and raised funds toward that goal.
According to Hickle, the turning point was the $250,000 California Cultural and Historical Endowment - Museum Grant Program grant she secured for the foundation.
“That $250,000 put us over, so we felt comfortable with the funding we had available,” Hickle said. Much of the other sources of funding comes from capital assets fundraisers, memberships and special events such as the foundation’s annual dinner auction. She estimates the first phase cost $800,000, including the building and most of the infrastructure like water and electrical. The museum also receives donations for the building project.
The project’s main emphasis is location and access for the public, especially for those who do not have access to China Lake.
“I was on Facebook with someone this morning who is coming here in August, and [that person] isn’t a U.S. citizen and can’t get on base,” Hickle said. She while the phase one building won’t be open in time for that person’s visit, the future will be a different story.
“People who are aren’t normally allowed to access the base will be to [visit the museum here],” she said.
Hickle said there’s a benefit to the new site’s location on East Las Flores Avenue. It’s centrally located between the Maturango Museum and Leroy Jackson Park, across the street from the Ridgecrest Branch Library and within walking distance of Burroughs High School and the new Murray Middle School campus.
“We wanted this as a museum complex between the Maturango and the China Lake Museum Foundation,” Hickle said. “It’s near the park so we can participate in community events.
All of the construction work, Hickle added, will be done by local businesses like Cordell Construction Company and Chuck Griffin.
“I try to use all local when I can,” Hickle said.
The new prefabricated modular units will be home to the first phase of the China Lake Museum’s new location. The building will house the gift shop and 23 exhibits. Eventually, a 10,000-square-foot building will be constructed in the second phase and the museum’s entire exhibit will be relocated from NAWS China Lake to the new facility.