By Dan Nienaber
---- — Construction is under way at the new location for the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota and the first steps are going to include some heavy lifting.
Workers were removing the concrete floor in the former city bus garage last week, the site of the future museum. Before a new floor can be put in, the foundation and walls for one of the museum's key attractions will have to be put in first.
Coughlan Companies is providing large pieces of Kasota stone to create a quarry exhibit. The exhibit will be a child-size replica of a quarrying site including an archway entry that weighs several tons all by itself.
The exhibit also shows the museum's planners have taken their time to pick a site where they plan to stay for a long time, said Peter Olson, museum executive director.
"They're going to start installing the exhibit in May because the stones weigh so much they have to put them in before they put the floor in," Olson said. "I like the way the Coughlan quarry exhibit is setting this up to say the Children's Museum is here to stay. You're not going to move this."
The tentative day for moving the stone into the building is May 20, said Jason Reese, a project manager who works for Jordan Sands, one of the Coughlan companies. That day may change because the existing concrete floor in the building has to be removed and foundations have to be poured before the stones can be installed. Each stone will weigh about 500 pounds.
Quarrying artifacts also are being donated, including several old stone saws and drill bits. The largest of the saws will have to be carefully mounted because it weighs about 2,800 pounds, Reese said.
"You only want to do this once," Reese said. "We have to get this in, then work on putting in the floor around it. It's not the most stone we've ever put in a building, but it's a great way to showcase mining. It's an important part of Mankato's heritage, but we forget that sometimes."
The Kasota quarry exhibit was announced during a breakfast showcase series the museum is hosting at its temporary site on Cherry Street during the month of May. More exhibit announcements will be coming during showcases later this month, Olson said.
Olson also announced that Mankato developer Kyle Smith and his wife, Abbie, are offering a $5,000 matching donation to the museum. So others are being encouraged to make donations adding up to $5,000 so the Smith donation can be claimed, Olson said.