WALLA WALLA -- Fort Walla Walla Museum has opened its doors early for the season in a step toward becoming a year-round attraction.
Through March 31, the Myra Road museum will be open weekdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with access to the Grand Hall, upper-level Exhibit Halls, Headquarters Art Gallery and Research Library and the Museum Store. The regular visitation season begins April 1. Hours then will expand to 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
The opening early this year comes on the heels of an extended season in 2010. The museum operated through December.
"This may have been the last time we ever have a major break," said Paul Franzmann, the museum's communications manager.
About 30 new or updated exhibits are in the works for the coming year, though access to those now may be slightly limited compared to the regular season, Franzmann said.
With work still in progress on the displays, visitors might not be able to see everything every day, he said. On the other hand, they may get a peek at the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting exhibits together. "If you ask me, that's kind of a cool thing," he said.
A year-round operation has been the goal of the museum for years, Franzmann said. The door to that goal has been opened over the last year with the $2.7 million construction of its new Entrance Building and Exhibit Hall.
Franzmann said the Entrance Building, a cornerstone of other improvements still to come at the museum that celebrates Walla Walla's historic Army fort days, is now the official gateway to the museum. Before, guests entered the museum through a separate gift shop that closed during the off-season.
But now with the Museum Store located in the new Entrance Building the larger operation is staffed even in the off-season and the buildings are no longer disjointed. Plus, Franzmann said, the operation this time of year is much more of an indoor experience anyway.
"We figured seeing as how we're here and working we might as well be open," he said.
The regular season opening in April will include a display of more than 50 Plateau Indian patriotic beadwork items and a fine art exhibit by Walla Walla Norman Adams.
If You Go
Fort Walla Walla Museum operates 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays. The cost is $7 for adults; $6 for those 62 and older; $3 for children 6-12; and free for kids under 6.