Renovation work has begun at the Brunswick Naval Aviation Museum. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

A $3 million renovation designed to transform the Brunswick Naval Aviation Museum into a “world-class” institution has taken flight.

The first phase of the three-year project started last week when crews tore down the two-story brick façade at the museum’s entrance to make way for glass windows and a walkway that will resemble a runway.

The museum, which opened in 2011, is located in the naval base’s former chapel building.

“We’re trying to make it more like a museum than a church building,” said museum Executive Director John Briley. “We hope it will increase visitation and make people more aware and encourage more support for the museum. … We want to transform it into a world-class museum.”

Other planned improvements include a renovation of the interior, a new heating and cooling system, the construction of a kitchen for events, and new bathrooms that meet disability codes.

The museum has raised about $750,000 so far, including a $200,000 contribution from Midcoast businessmen Jim Howard, Frank Crooker and Ted Crooker.

“We’ve had significant contributions from the community,” Briley said. The museum applied for a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is collecting donations through its Wheels Up! capital campaign.

The museum has thousands of aviation relics, from uniform patches to parachutes to pieces of aircraft. There’s also a flight simulator. About 1,300 people visit the museum every year.

A rendering shows the planned improvements of the exterior of the Brunswick Naval Aviation Museum. Courtesy of Brunswick Naval Aviation Museum

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