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Commission to review plans for Westfield museum

Date: 6/14/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — Plans to establish a museum detailing the industrial history of the city forged ahead as Westfield Museum Inc. (WMI). took the next step in the process.

The Conservation Commission will review its request to begin renovating 360 Elm St., the site of the Westfield Whip Manufacturing Company Inc.

Peter Martin, president of WMI and whose family owns the building, explained the goal is to create a space within the building that will house rotating exhibits depicting the various eras of Westfield's past. The Whip Company will occupy the second floor. Since the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, WMI will apply for Community Preservation Act funding to establish the museum.

"It's a daunting task," Martin said. "We're laying the foundation right now."

WMI wants to begin work on the building that includes clearing a tree along the Westfield Riverfront, which is subject to review to ensure compliance with the Wetlands Protection Act of Massachusetts.

Martin said the exhibits would depict the 19th century Industrial Revolution that took place in Westfield. The quarterly displays will have alternating themes such as "Westfield at War" or "The Women of Westfield." He added that WMI is working with faculty at Westfield State University to "flush out" the best approach to creating the exhibits.

An educational space will accompany the exhibits so that schools can bring students to view the museum for a field trip destination to learn more about the history of their home, according to Martin.

WMI submitted the request so that it can begin work on the exterior of the building to make upgrades to the masonry and windows in addition to the landscaping needs.

Martin said that WMI is currently working on completing the museum design. He added that the Massachusetts Historical Commission has also been notified of WMI's intent to create a museum.

"We don't want it to feel [its regulations] were overlooked or ignored," he said of the commission, adding that WMI will obtain all necessary permits.