State grant will upgrade Lyman Allyn's HVAC system

The Lyman Allyn Museum in New London.
The Lyman Allyn Museum in New London. Day file photo

The Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London is in line to get $1.5 million from the state to replace its heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

The State Bond Commission is expected to approve that grant at its Friday meeting in the State Legislative Office Building.

The Lyman Allyn's current system is more than 21 years old and has needed a number of repairs. The HVAC system is particularly vital for a museum because it helps to preserve the museum's 10,000-plus pieces of art by controlling the temperature and humidity.

James Eckerle, the Lyman Allyn's interim director, says the museum currently burns oil but will convert to natural gas, which is much more efficient and in line with the state's energy strategy.

The museum currently uses 5,400 gallons of oil per year. Eckerle notes that former director Nancy Stula used to say that the Lyman Allyn's energy cost is comparable to a facility 1/3 larger. The cost ranges from $45,000 to $50,000 per year.

With the new HVAC, the museum's energy costs should drop by about 30 percent.

The announcement about the State Bond Commission's anticipated approval was made in a press release by State Sen. Andrea Stillman (D-Waterford), State Rep. Ernest Hewett (D-New London) and State Rep. Elissa Wright (D-Groton).

In the statement, Hewett said, "The Lyman Allyn Museum is an important contributor to the richness of our community. They play an important role in our New London Public Schools with subsidized field trips and free admission for local residents."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said, "Connecticut is a state with tremendous cultural institutions, places that help make our communities great places to live and work. Lyman Allyn Art Museum is one of those treasures, and our investment will make sure that it continues to be a destination for years to come."

Eckerle says he, the board and the finance committee are elated with the grant.

"We're of course thrilled to be able to make that necessary repair," he says. "We're putting the museum on a different trajectory. So we take away from it, okay, the state believes we can get this on a different trajectory. They're willing to invest in critical repairs for us."

Elaborating on that trajectory, Eckerle says, "The museum struggled over the past few years in terms of fundraising and its direction. All of that is changing."

A new director, D. Samuel Quigley, will start work in May. The Lyman Allyn also has its second challenge grant going on this year, with a goal of $150,000 - which would be double what was accomplished last year.

"We've got a board and a group of people here working hard to make sure the Lyman Allyn is a resource for the community," Eckerle says.

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