Museum of Contemporary Photography plans expansion

Installation view of "1979:1-2012:21: Jan TIchy Works with the MoCP Collection" at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, 2012.

Installation view of "1979:1-2012:21: Jan TIchy Works with the MoCP Collection" at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, 2012. Photograph: Courtesy of the MoCP

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (600 S Michigan Ave) isn't huge and it doesn't want to be—but it has decided to expand. "We want to stay true to who we are," MoCP director Natasha Egan told me during an interview last week, explaining that renovations will focus on the museum's layout rather than its size, though it will increase upon its current 7,500 sq footage spread over two floors and a mezzanine. "We’re not trying to explode," she adds. "We’re trying to just match our strong programming to a stronger, more flexible space that works."

Egan's wish list includes a new front door. Located within a Columbia College building, the MoCP has no direct street entrance. "Our issue is visibility within our space," Egan says. "I think that more strangers would walk into a museum rather than into the hallway of a college."

As the MoCP’s parent, Columbia College has promised the museum additional room. Egan hopes for a more adaptable space and handicap accessibility. Right now, she works in a windowless office on the mezzanine while three other staffers share an equal-sized room upstairs. On the museum’s first floor, a wall dividing the east and west galleries limits the ways photographs, videos and other artworks can be displayed. Egan also contemplates a bigger vault for the MoCP's 11,000-piece collection. "There’s things I want, but I’m not an architect," she says. A yet-to-be-named architectural firm will soon translate her thoughts into a design plan, complete with conceptual drawings that the museum will use to begin fund-raising over the next few months.

Egan predicts construction will have to be completed in stages. "It’s fund-raising and timing," she says. Fund-raising goals depend in turn on whether the museum decides to remain free to the public. While there’s an appeal to remaining completely accessible to everyone, Egan says many insist they’re willing to pay. The MoCP currently suggests guests donate $5, but options ranging from free days, to remaining complimentary only to Columbia students and faculty, are on the table.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)