Connecticut Audubon will offer a preview of the first phase of Birdcraft's renovation at its Holiday Tea from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Tours of the museum at 314 Unquowa Road will be offered during the tea this year, along with the sandwiches, cookies and other holiday treats.
"We're making it into a museum of the 21st century," said Nelson North, director of Fairfield operations for Connecticut Audubon, as he gave a tour of the museum building.
From the outside, the extensive recent renovation work is barely visible, except for a sturdy new roof and cleared out space in the front circle for schoolchildren to gather, 3,000 of whom visit the Birdcraft each year, according to North. But from the inside, the museum is clearly being redone from floor to ceiling. All walls are being insulated, there is new flooring and new ceilings in every room of the museum, which is actually three buildings completed in 1914, 1926 and 1947, he said.
The renovation was necessary because the building was in poor shape without insulation, with buckled walls in some places, and needed to be stabilized.
"The building was in bad repair," North said. "We're bringing it up to code."
Phase I of the project involved redoing the structure. Phase II will be installing the exhibits -- both old and new. Some of the exhibits will be the historic dioramas of birds of the area created by Mabel Osgood Wright, who began the Connecticut Audubon in 1898, according to North. Other newer exhibits will also be built and installed with the help of professional exhibit designers and curators, he said.
North said that he did not know the cost of Phase I of the renovation project, but that it was funded by a significant gift from Lucy Bedford Warren.
The Holiday Tea will not only give guests a preview of the renovation, but is also planned as a thank-you to Connecticut Audubon's supporters.
"We are so grateful to all of our volunteers for giving of their time in support of our mission," North said. "It's wonderful that we can combine our appreciation by offering a special preview at this very joyous event."
The Holiday Tea will also feature a guest appearance from one of the Connecticut Audubon Society's resident hawks or owls and an assortment of small gifts available for purchase.
The tea is open to the public and is free.
For more information call 203-259-6305, ext.109, or visit the Connecticut Audubon Society's website at www.ctaudubon.org for a complete listing of programs and events.