The Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum will use a $20,000 grant from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County to expand its building.

Construction is expected to begin this summer on the proposed 1,800-square-foot building that will be used to store artifacts and other material, said Nick Firestone, the museum board president.

The structure will also serve as a restoration and shop area, he said.

The museum has raised 80 percent of its $162,500 goal, through donor pledges and grants, for the first phase of the project — the building and accompanying patio area, Firestone said.

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The air museum, which was founded in 1992, was built to capture history of the former Atterbury Army Air Field, later named Bakalar Air Force Base, and its contributions through the years to the nation’s war effort.

The museum draws about 6,000 to 8,000 visitors each year, Firestone said. It is staffed primarily by retired volunteers, many of whom are military veterans.

The building was closed from September 2013 to April 2014 for an expansion of a library, conference room and replica of an Army barracks, doubling in size to 7,200 square feet.

New renovations will be made to an existing storage area inside the museum that will add an estimated 800 to 950 square feet of display space, said Jim Sellars, past board president.

The second phase of the project will consist of an outdoor sculpture modeled to look like two propeller blades, Sellars said.

About half of the estimated $7,000 to $10,000 needed for the sculpture has been committed so far by donors, he said. It will be dedicated to the 434th Air Refueling Wing, which was stationed at the base from the 1940s until 1970 before being moved to Grissom Air Force Base in Peru, Sellars said.

A canopy is planned as part of the third phase of the project and is estimated to cost $15,000 to $20,000. Firestone said he hopes the canopy and outdoor space will generate interest from the public who may want to host reunions and other events at the museum.

Firestone said additional fundraising for the final two phases may not be necessary depending on how successful fundraising is for the first phase.

“It’ll be a venue the public can use,” Firestone said. “Hopefully different military groups that can use it as well.”

To donate

To donate toward its expansion project, donations can be sent to the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Musem, 4720 Ray Boll Boulevard, Columbus, IN 47203.

For more information, call 812-372-4356 or visit atterburybakalarairmuseum.org.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com