The Stanley and Dorothy Truhlsen Lecture Hall is a state-of-the-art theater seating 266 people. Most impressively, it is situated in the old boiler room, part of the original station built in 1899. When the station was torn down in 1929 and the current station completed in 1931, use of the boiler discontinued. In 1997, a $25 million addition and renovation project was completed - this included refurbishment of the original detail and finishes to create an environment to provide proper space for museum experience. A new roof for the boiler house was also added, but no interior work.
The room was essentially encased and abandoned as non-usable space - the original masonry boilers and wooden tanks left in place. When the Museum identified a need for expanded educational program offerings, the idea of a new lecture hall with distance learning capabilities was born. In February 2007, the team of HDR and Peter Kiewit began work on the project. Remarkably, the size and footprint of the space were similar to modern lecture facilities. As demolition began, unique architectural details were found such as the brick arches that are now the entrance to the space. Also, a limestone foundation was discovered which continues to be exposed today. The experts from HDR and Peter Kiewit have worked hard to keep the beauty and historic feel while building in world-class technology. The result is a prime example of adaptable reuse that is becoming a vital path to continue and extend the life of a structure that is part of the fabric of Omaha's history.
Distance learning technology, which includes sound systems, projection and Web technology, has been built into the Lecture Hall. This allows for real-time lectures and discussions with representatives from our partner organizations such as the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, National Archives and others. According to the Center for Interactive Learning and Problem Solving, research indicates a high correlation between collaboration and gain in student achievement and problem solving skills. The distance learning capabilities will ensure the Museum continues to be a phenomenal resource to Educational Service Units (ESU) and colleges from across the region by delivering strong, meaningful content. Specifically, the Museum's programs provide subject experts and create a cost-effective borderless way for institutions to incorporate creative instruction. Annually, the Museum hosts over 40,000 students and adult learners representing 26 school districts through field trips, lectures and tours - and the number of people touched continues to increase through the new distance learning programs.
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