Nonprofit Insider

Mount Washington Observatory Unveils Plans for New Summit Museum

Mount Washington - A brand new, interactive winter experience will soon greet summer visitors to Mount Washington, as Mount Washington Observatory prepares to perform a complete redesign and renovation of its museum at the summit. Plans for the museum, entitled “Extreme Mount Washington,” were unveiled to members of the media at a special reception this morning in North Conway. 

Welcoming more than 100,000 visitors each year, New Hampshire’s most visited museum is located, amazingly, atop New England’s tallest peak. Originally created in 1973, Mount Washington Observatory’s summit museum has offered its visitors a look at the mountain’s natural and human history, and has served as the cornerstone of the organization’s education program for four decades.

In the spring of 2014, the 2,750 square foot Mount Washington Museum will be completely reborn. Stripped down to the studs, reinvigorated and entirely reimagined, the new museum is being designed to deliver the awe and wonder of a Mount Washington winter to the peak’s summer visitors from all over the world. 

This project represents the most significant enhancement of the Observatory’s educational work since the opening of its Weather Discovery Center science museum in North Conway in 1999. 

“Extreme Mount Washington will give summer visitors a taste of what we experience in winter,” says Scot Henley, Executive Director of Mount Washington Observatory. “Mount Washington is known around the world for being one of the planet’s most severe places, and this new museum experience will take a good look at the science behind the extremes.”

Mount Washington Observatory chose Jeff Kennedy Associates, Inc. of Somerville, Mass. to lead the redesign of the mountaintop museum. The new museum will feature a collection of high-tech exhibits that tell the winter story of Mount Washington. Visitors will be able to sit in the cockpit of a snowcat and pilot the machine up the mountain. A large, five monitor display will present interactive, panoramic “clear day” views in all seasons. An exhibit depicting the 1930’s Observatory will feature artifacts and instruments from that era, including the very anemometer that was used to measure the “Big Wind” of April 12, 1934.

“From the moment we became involved, I knew that this would become one my all-time favorite projects, but the challenge of figuring out how to immerse visitors in the extreme conditions of a Mount Washington winter was, at the outset, a somewhat daunting assignment,” says Jeff Kennedy, principal of Jeff Kennedy Associates. “With the design now complete and production about to get underway, I am confident that the new museum, which is media rich and highly participatory, will provide an experience that visitors can engage with nowhere else on Earth.”

One of the most compelling aspects of the new museum will be the high definition winter video footage captured by documentarian Tom Guilmette of Franklin, Massachusetts. Guilmette was given the difficult task of capturing on video the essence of the Mount Washington winter experience. He was embedded with Observatory staff for nearly a month, following the day-to-day work of Observatory meteorologists, capturing unique weather phenomena and battling the elements in the name of education. In the end, Guilmette was successful in shooting extensive, frigid, other worldly footage that will serve as the audio-visual centerpiece of Extreme Mount Washington. 

For the first time ever, the growth of rime ice was captured in high definition time-lapse video, a major highlight of the project. Rime forms when super-cooled water droplets in clouds freeze onto rocks and structures, creating breathtaking feathers of ice that grow into the wind. An exhibit in Extreme Mount Washington will focus entirely on this unique phenomenon, and feature the exclusive time-lapse video. 

The logistics of renovating a museum on top of a mountain make this particular project quite a challenge. All structures and components comprising the museum elements are being designed so that they can be transported to the summit in the back of a pickup truck or inside a van. Next spring, installers plan to stage the new exhibits, all completely fabricated and tested prior to arrival, in box trucks at the base of the mountain. When the Mt. Washington Auto Road is cleared and opens for the 2014 summer season, exhibits will be dropped into place. Given the museum’s hard-to-reach location, all exhibits are being designed and constructed for maximum durability and minimum maintenance. 

$719,175 has been raised towards the project’s goal of $825,000, and Henley is confident that Mount Washington Observatory donors and supporters will move the Extreme Mount Washington fundraising campaign to completion this summer. 

For more information about the Extreme Mount Washington project, including the museum master plan, exhibit illustrations, an informative video and donation information, visit

“This is an important project for Mount Washington,” says Henley. “It’s also a big step forward for a beloved New Hampshire institution and a wildly popular tourist destination. We’re looking for support from people across New England to finish out this campaign, and we can’t wait to cut the ribbon on Extreme Mount Washington in 2014.”

Operating within 59-acre Mt. Washington State Park, Mount Washington Observatory is a private, nonprofit, member-supported research and educational institution with a mission to advance understanding of Earth’s weather and climate. Since 1932, the Observatory has been observing Mount Washington’s incredible extremes, conducting scientific research, educating the public about the science of weather and climate, and amassing one of North America’s longest and most unique climate records. For weather reports, webcams, summit trips, photos and more, visit

Posted on: May 24, 2013
Topics: Something New

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