The World Museum of Mining’s dreams for the future just got a little bit bigger – about $2.5 million bigger.

The Butte museum announced Wednesday it plans to build a new, two-story structure estimated to cost $2.5 million and is launching a fundraising campaign to get it done.

The museum’s board of directors approved the project about three weeks ago, said museum director Jeanette Kopf.

“This has actually been a project that’s been a dream for the museum for a number of years,” Kopf said Thursday.

Kopf said the facility will provide proper archival storage for the museum’s historic photos and some of its artifacts.

Currently some photos are housed off-site, but with the addition of the new building, the museum will be able to store them in a space that’s equipped with temperature, humidity, and light control.

“They’re mining photos. They’re Butte photos,” said Kopf, noting that the photos speak to Butte’s mining heritage.

The two-story facility will be located immediately southeast of the gift shop entrance and will tentatively boast 5,000 square feet of floor space. Both floors will have modern restroom facilities, which have been a desperate need for the life of the museum, Kopf said.

The lower level will house the photo archives in a fireproof area that will allow staff, volunteers, and individuals to preserve and research the photos and other records. The upper level, meanwhile, will house an entrance, gift shop, offices, and exhibit area and space for meetings, presentations, and small conferences.

Board members don't have a timeline yet for construction, the museum director said, but they have a goal of entering the design phase for the building by March 2018.

Kopf said the new meeting space will broaden the reach of the museum, which currently does not have an indoor venue for meetings. Having the extra space, she said, will allow the museum to host events year-round, present winter exhibits, and provide more space for children’s workshops.

“It just opens up some more opportunities across the board,” said Kopf.

The news of the museum’s expansion comes on the heels of a record-breaking year of attendance for the history-based facility.

This year the museum boasted around 2,700 visitors, Kopf said, up by 12 percent from last year.

The higher attendance partly led the board to pull the trigger on the new building, Kopf said. The building will also complement improvements to the museum that have taken place over the past year, including major electrical work and the opening of the 100-foot level of the Orphan Girl Mine.

Kopf said the board hopes to pay for the facility through grants, fundraising events, and individual donations on the museum’s website and Facebook page. The board has already raised $1,200 from the Butte community after the recent announcement and has a $10,000 pledge from an anonymous donor.

The building is tentatively named the Mining Heritage Building. But the name of the building could change, a news release from the museum said, for a donor with a generous donation.

As for Kopf, she said the museum helps tell the story of Butte and that she looks forward to being part of the expansion.

“It’s just exciting to watch the growth,” she said.

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Business Reporter for The Montana Standard.

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