AUGUSTA — Maine State Museum officials and business leaders unveiled upgrades to the visitor experience with an eye to the future during a ceremony Thursday morning.

The upgrades include a new digital information and photo display in the museum’s welcome area and complimentary Wi-Fi on the museum’s entrance-level exhibit areas.

Jon Doyle, chairman of the Maine State Museum Commission, said the museum is beloved by everyone and these improvements, spearheaded by FairPoint Communications’ Maine leadership, will ensure that continues.

“The best things work when businesses work with institutions,” Doyle said. “I am not a digital-aged person, but I have an understanding about how what we have now is a good thing.”

FairPoint, a North Carolina-based company that was acquired Monday by Consolidated Communications for $1.5 billion, provided the funding for the museum’s new third-floor Wi-Fi network.

“We’re really pleased to be a part of this and proud to be here,” said FairPoint’s Maine state president, Mike Reed. “This will help move this world-class museum further into the digital age.”

Jennifer Dube, the development director for the Friends of the Maine State Museum, said the project was a collaboration among many people and businesses and took about six months of planning.

The digital display features six photographs bordering a 40-inch Sony Smart TV and a panel featuring the museum’s logo and tag line. The display, which allows different photos to be shown, showed six different images taken at various spots within the museum.

“There is a USB device that is storing the slide show, but our plans are to get a media server to mate with this (display) as we test and learn what we need for functionality,” Dube said. “We’ll get to do all sorts of creative stuff.”

The smart TV, donated by Fortin Home Furnishings in Winslow, includes a rotating slide show with museum information, exhibits and artifacts and programs. It can also play videos that highlight specific programs and activities, such as carving arrowheads, which is one of the museum’s most popular programs.

“We have a wonderful new digital tool where we can showcase museum collections, events and philanthropy,” Dube said. The display also has donation envelopes and a slot connected to a lock box for people who want to contribute to the museum.

The museum already has Wi-Fi on the fourth floor in the temporary exhibit space, which currently houses an exhibit on Maine’s gunsmiths.

Chief Educator Joanna Turow said the new display and Wi-Fi connection will help expand the museum’s program offerings and what children and adults can do while visiting the museum.

“We’re working on a new project to incorporate more hands-on and interactive exhibits as we start to plan for our new education space, and having wireless certainly helps us do that,” Turow said. “There are a lot of possibilities like audio tours, using QR codes; and now that we have (the Wi-Fi), it’ll give us more potential.”

A QR, or quick response, code is a machine-readable label that can be scanned to link the viewer to a website. They often can be scanned using a smartphone

The Maine State Library, a floor below the museum, has a Wi-Fi network that works sporadically outside of the library on the entry level. Museum officials said many people have asked about Wi-Fi access in more places throughout the museum. They said they hope one day the entire museum will have Wi-Fi coverage.

Dube said museum officials spend time talking about staying relevant in the 21st century, and these new improvements go a long way to making sure the museum continues to move forward.

“The display really brightens up the space, and the design work is so beautiful,” Dube said. “It’s a very flexible space.”

The museum now has two focal points in its welcome area — the digital display and the historic Lion steam locomotive, which was built in 1846 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

“You can look to the past, but we want to make connections to the future,” Dube said. “It’s perfect.”

The musuem, at 230 State St., is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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