A rendering shows what the First Amendment Museum is planned to look like once its renovation is complete. Image courtesy of the First Amendment Museum

AUGUSTA — The First Amendment Museum, located in the former Guy P. Gannett home in Augusta, won a nearly $250,000 grant to complete the design of what officials say will be its state-of-the-art exhibition meant to inspire visitors to understand, practice and preserve their First Amendment rights of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

The $249,000 federal Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be used to complete the design of the museum’s exhibition, which is expected to be installed as part of an overall, $14 million restoration and expansion of the building.

The planned interactive exhibition, officials said, will allow visitors to encounter, interact with and reflect upon their rights by reinforcing the notion that citizens utilize and engage with the freedoms the First Amendment protects. Each room of the museum will interpret a particular aspect of the First Amendment. A dystopian kitchen will show what life could be like in a society without the First amendment, a “Library of Censorship” will highlight books, movies and music that have been banned, a teenager’s bedroom will explore youth speech and social media, and an exercise room “will engage kinesthetic learners,” according to a news release.

“This major grant will help us create a visitor experience that is unique, interactive and relevant,” Genie Gannett co-founder and president of the board of directors, and a granddaughter of Guy Gannett, said in the release.

The non-partisan museum is already open, with temporary exhibits and guided interactive tours focusing upon the First Amendment and the five freedoms it protects — religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Admission is free and the museum, at 184 State St. next to the Blaine House, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and, until Sept. 4, Saturdays.

Deborah Williams, manager of outreach engagement for the First Amendment Museum, said Monday the exhibition will be worked on concurrently with the physical restoration and expansion of the 1911 building, which is likely starting next year with a goal of opening the new exhibit in late 2023 or early 2024.

The exhibition will be created by designer Helen Riegle of HER Design in Boston, whose portfolio includes the Boston Public Library’s “Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial,” the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s “A Whole New Game,” and “America on The Move” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“The museum’s exhibitions will demonstrate how Americans have utilized their First Amendment rights as a tool to advance our society and to create that ‘more perfect union’ that is our civic charge,” said Christian Cotz, chief executive officer of the museum. “But perhaps more importantly these dynamic, thought-provoking and interactive exhibitions will inspire people to live their freedoms and exercise their rights in more intentional and effective ways.”

A fundraising campaign to pay for the project is in its beginning stages, according to Jamie O’Brien, chief development officer. Donations may be made through the museum’s website.

The expansion will double the size of the facility and be attached to the rear of the building.

Guy Gannett and his family lived in the home for about 10 years before moving to Portland when the publishing company he founded with his father purchased the Portland Press Herald. The Gannett Publishing Co. also owned the Waterville Sentinel, The Portland (Maine) Sunday Telegram, The Portland Evening Express and the Daily Kennebec Journal. They later expanded to broadcast media but sold the company in 1998.

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