Kelsey Desmond
Green Connections Radio Intern

A blue robe adorned with ornate design and snarling dragons stands illuminated behind a glass case. As beautiful and intricate as this robe is, a curator informs me that it was, in fact, an under robe for a member of the court during the Qing dynasty. However, this robe, much like textiles from around the world, holds a rich history and symbolism significant to Chinese culture. It is artifacts like this that will soon find their new home in the George Washington Museum come 2014. University administration hopes that the museum will draw scholars and students from around the world.

The Textile Museum

This is one of the artifacts that will be on display at the new George Washington University Museum, whose groundbreaking was held on October 18, 2012.  The museum will house the Textile Museum’s entire collection as well as the Albert H. Small collection of Washingtonian memorabilia – and is designed specifically to adhere to the University’s sustainability principles.

This new GW Museum will be built on repurposed land and include the historic Woodhull House which showcases the rich history of the university. Every new building must attain at least LEED Silver; most new buildings reach LEED Gold.

According to Shannon Ross, Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator for GW’s Office of Sustainability, sustainable building fits in with the university’s Campus Plan goals. The Office of Sustainability, through its climate, water, and ecosystem plans demonstrates a commitment to a variety of sustainable issues, “…ranging from energy efficiency to water filling stations to indoor air quality to procurement of sustainable construction materials to light pollution.” Building green helps the university reach goals such as capturing rain water to prevent runoff, reduce light pollution, and reduce its carbon footprint by 80% by 2040.

While the LEED process is an arduous one, Ross expressed that the university is dedicated to sustainability, especially sustainable buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council, the organization in charge of LEED certification, requires builders to follow a series of procedures including, “…extensive documentation, calculations, energy modeling, and commitments to perform post-construction activities.”  Ross assures, however, that the university is willing to commit and accept any challenges from this process.

President Stephen Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman gave opening remarks, including their intention that the museum will attract scholars and visitors worldwide as well as give students opportunities in a variety of disciplines such as history, anthropology, and even the hard sciences.  They also unveiled three of the most significant pieces to be showcased in the GW Museum – One bore the image George Washington himself to pay homage to the university’s namesake. – and talked about how the museum adhered to the University’s sustainability goals.

The university’s campus plan, put into effect in 2007, requires the university to follow stringent sustainable practices. Following the model “Grow Up, Not Out”, GW will build only on property already owned by the university.

The GW Museum finally came to fruition after years of planning. Last spring, students of the university’s student organization Campaign GW wrote over 75 letters of support for the Museum’s campus presence. After two hearings, the zoning committee finally granted GW permission to build the museum.

2012 marks GW’s hundredth year in Foggy Bottom. This groundbreaking is symbolic of the university’s presence and continual growth into a new century.