May 23, 2013

Atop Mount Washington: Extremely cool museum

Interactive exhibits in a new museum will highlight the mountain's fierce winter weather.

The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. – A small museum atop the Northeast's highest peak is about to get a whole lot cooler.

click image to enlarge

In this Thursday Feb. 1, 2007 file photo wind and driving snow are seen on the top of the highest peak in the Northeast, Mount Washington, in New Hampshire. A small museum atop the Northeast's highest peak is about to get a whole lot cooler. The 40-year-old museum run by the Mount Washington Observatory is planning a major overhaul designed to give summer visitors a feel for the mountaintop's extreme winter weather. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

The 40-year-old museum run by the Mount Washington Observatory is planning a major overhaul designed to give summer visitors a feel for the mountaintop's extreme winter weather. The 2,750-square-foot space will be stripped down to the studs and filled with modern, hands-on exhibits that will educate the public about what it takes to research some of the world's worst weather.

"The new museum will deliver the winter experience to the summer visitor," said observatory director Scot Henley, who announced the plans Thursday. "The days of having specimens behind glass in a museum is on the way out. This new museum experience is built on interactivity."

For decades, Mount Washington was known as home to the fastest wind gust ever recorded on Earth - 231 mph on April 12, 1934. It lost that distinction in 2010, when experts reviewing extreme weather data discovered that a 235 mph gust had been recorded in Australia during a 1996 cyclone. But Mount Washington still claims to be home to some of the world's worst weather given the combination of bitter cold, snow, wind and freezing fog it frequently experiences.

The new museum, designed by Jeff Kennedy Associates Inc. of Somerville, Mass., and dubbed "Extreme Mount Washington," will include the instruments used to record the famous 1934 winds. Children will be able to climb on a snowcat vehicle and use its controls to "drive" up the mountain via a video simulation and experience what Henley called the "craziest commute in America."

Other exhibits will feature video footage captured by documentary filmmaker Tom Guilmette, who spent nearly a month on the mountain recording its fierce weather and frigid beauty.

The Mount Washington Observatory is a private, nonprofit organization that maintains a weather station at the summit of the 6,288-foot mountain. With $719,000 raised toward the project's $825,000 total cost, the observatory is hoping more donations arrive soon to allow it to stick to a rigid construction schedule that would allow the new musuem to open next spring.

 

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