LANESBOROUGH -- Folks who stop into the Mount Greylock State Reservation Visitor Center are in for a new interpretive experience to preview their visit to the mountain.
Crew members with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) are in the final stages of installing a museum-quality exhibition to help visitors understand the immensity -- geologically, ecologically and culturally -- of the area they're about to experience.
"We wanted to make it a discovery center -- a place to get oriented and educated about the reservation," said Wendy Pearl, the preservation planner for the DCR. "Greylock is a really special place -- like an island because of the geology, the ecology and the cultural history. The hope was to communicate that special nature."
The project -- which included developing an interpretive master plan for the reservation and installing new interpretive signage along the roads and at the trail heads -- was funded through a federal grant for $860,000 and a state grant of $215,000.
It has been in development since 2009, Pearl said.
When the project was ready for installation in the visitor center, officials discovered that the entire south wall would need to be replaced. During the past 40 years, temperature changes affected the wall and moisture infiltrated it.
So the wall and its windows were replaced and upgraded to enhance the new installations. The flooring and restrooms also were upgraded, while preserving the original 1972 architecture. The renovation was a separate project.
Alec Gillman, the DCR visitor services supervisor at Mount Greylock, was instrumental in the installation, Pearl said. Exhibit designer Michael Hanke of Amherst designed the various pieces, and Sean McElroy and Noelle LaMuniere of Sheffield produced the pieces based on Hanke's designs.
There is also a small gallery, named for late Berkshire Eagle photographer Bill Tague, still in development. Pearl said its first exhibit will feature some of Tague's photography on Mount Greylock.
An 11-minute film also helps visitors understand the history and ecology of the reservation.
"Everyone really came together on this," Pearl said. "It was an intense interpretive development process."
Part of the exhibit portrays a short history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, whose members built the roads, trails, lean-tos and the Thunderbolt Ski Shelter, as well as completing Bascom Lodge atop the summit, during the 1930s.
"There really is no CCC museum," Pearl noted. "And Greylock has dozens of CCC sites, so we are caretakers of that history."
As visitors proceed through the center, they will see examples of various species of flora and fauna that reside on the mountain and experience some of its history.
"We are trying to inspire people to be caretakers of the future -- to care about and understand this place, to see that it is more than just a pretty face," Pearl said.