SHERIDAN — With roughly two months until its planned reopening, the Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum is preparing to undergo significant renovations.
Having cataloged the entirety of the museum’s collection and disassembled the exhibits on the museum’s floor, Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum Executive Director Mikayla Larrow said the museum is set to undergo a nearly $230,000 facelift that will upgrade the design and structure of the museum.
The largest project will be a replacement of the museum’s metal roof, which Larrow said has degraded over the years. Metal roofs require yearly maintenance, Larrow said, which involves tightening each screw in the roof because weather causes the screws to expand and contract throughout the year and slowly loosen.
That proved to be a massive undertaking for the relatively small museum board, and Larrow said the yearly maintenance the roof requires has not been performed at least since the SCHS converted the building from Bubba’s Bar-B-Que in 2006.
“There are thousands of screws on the roof, on the pitch, and everything else,” Larrow said. “And the previous boards tried to maintain it and everything, but it’s a lot of maintenance apparently.”
Larrow said the SCHS plans to replace its current roof with a shingled roof, which will be cheaper — she said a new metal roof would have cost about $100,000 — require less maintenance and carry a 50-year warranty. Local interior designer Christina Haworth, who designed several museums when she worked as vice president of an architectural firm in Florida, plotted the museum’s new layout to compartmentalize exhibits using movable walls that come within six inches of the building’s ceiling, essentially creating a different room for each exhibit.
“We decided to go with a more modern, European layout where you’re basically going from room to room rather than having aisles of cases,” Haworth said. “…It’s going to much more open and they’re going to be able to display a lot more of the artifacts and items that they have in the museum.”
Haworth said she also designed the floor plan to give the SCHS more flexibility to rotate exhibits and artifacts, of which Larrow said she intends to take full advantage. She has already planned to use one room for a rotating exhibit, which will initially highlight significant women in Sheridan County’s history in recognition of the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Wyoming. Larrow said she also plans to refresh some of the museum’s traditional exhibits — like the North Bozeman Trail exhibit — and create new exhibits, such as a display detailing the formation of Sheridan County.
“A lot of people don’t realize that counties usually take a while to form,” Larrow said. “There’s a reason that some counties are teeny-tiny and other counties are massive; at one point in time Wyoming only had four counties.”
Over time, the distance between the state’s communities created significant differences among them, and smaller counties formed to better represent regional interests, Larrow said.
Despite the significant renovations the museum has planned, Larrow said the SCHS has only slightly delayed its reopening. The society was originally planning to reopen in May and shifted the opening to late-May.