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All-New Discovery Museum Set To Open Its Doors
Museum Sets Fundraising Record, Raising $8.8M to Surpass $8.4M Campaign Goal
ADA-compliant building and accessible exhibits will welcome and accommodate visitors of all abilities
New museum name and brand launched
Celebration Weekend March 3 and 4; children admitted free
Acton, MA – After 35 years of operation, more than 4.6 million children and families served, tens of thousands of family memories made, and millions of hands-on STEAM-based A-HA! moments enjoyed, the expanded, completely renovated, fully accessible, and now single-building Discovery Museum will open its doors to the New England community for a celebration weekend March 3 and 4, 2018, 9:00am to 4:30pm each day. Children 12 and under will be free all weekend as a Thank You to the community.
The expanded and completely renovated museum has twice the exhibit space of the original museum and includes significant new galleries for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) experiences including water; air; tinkering, design, and engineering; early brain development; math; light and color; and sound. It also includes reimagined visitor favorites from the original buildings including a Diner, Train Room, and Ship Room, along with other beloved exhibit components such as a giant amethyst and radar magnet. In keeping with museum pedagogy, all exhibits are hands-on, low-tech, open-ended, and interactive, to encourage play, exploration, and experimentation by all.
“With this great new museum we will reach many more families and will serve as an example for making great STEAM learning experiences available to all kids; demonstrating ways to get kids back outdoors to play; and, advocating for play as the basis for children’s growth and development,” said CEO Neil Gordon. “The most important thing we can do is to prepare kids to tackle the challenges of a rapidly changing, complex world. The new Discovery Museum will inspire every child to find his or her most creative and curious self, and to discover the wonder and truth of science and the joy and importance of the natural world.”
The new museum was designed by Cambridge Seven Associates; landscape architecture by Lemon | Brooke Landscape Architects; general contracting by JM Coull, Inc.; exhibit design by Paul Orselli Workshop Inc. and Margaret Middleton.
The original Children’s Discovery Museum will close permanently when the new museum opens. Housed in a circa 1883 Victorian home since it was created by local math and science teacher and naturalist Donald Verger in 1982, the museum holds treasured memories for tens of thousands of visitors of all ages. Bessie the dinosaur, who has graced the museum’s front lawn for more than 30 years, will remain in place and available to visitors.
Campaign for the Discovery Museum
The opening of the museum marks the successful culmination of the Campaign for the Discovery Museum, which kicked off in November 2013 and outperformed an $8.4M goal, raising $8.8M toward the new building and Discovery Woods, the accessible nature playscape and treehouse opened in July 2016.
Central to the success of the Campaign was $4M in matching grants from The Manton Foundation. This includes a $3M Leadership Challenge completed in late 2015, a year ahead of deadline, and an additional $1M Community Challenge completed in late 2017. The campaign also received significant gifts from the Sheth Sangreal Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund. It also benefitted from the generosity and support of many others: more than 200 individuals and organizations contributed to the Campaign; 37% of those were first-time donors to the museum.
“The all-new Discovery Museum—and everything it will mean to families in our region for decades to come—is made possible by the tremendous support and love of our community, plain and simple,” said Board Chair Bill Ryan. “We needed to replace aging infrastructure, add modern amenities, grow our overtaxed capacity, and refit to serve people of all abilities. Individuals and families, businesses, foundations, and local, state, and federal government stepped up to the challenge to revitalize this incredibly important regional asset. We have been humbled by their overwhelming support.”
Underpinning every aspect of the new museum is accessibility. The building is ADA-compliant and all exhibits are accessible, designed according to Universal Design principles to be both aesthetically pleasing and useable by the widest possible range of people, without regards to age or ability. In combination with the museum’s Discovery Woods outdoor nature playscape and treehouse, the entire campus is now accessible.
“Here at ACM we have long recognized Discovery Museum’s leadership in welcoming visitors of all abilities and circumstances, and this new, accessible facility supports our priorities around the critical role of play in healthy early learning and a commitment to serving all children and families,” said Association of Children’s Museums Executive Director Laura Huerta Migus. “Many in our field will be looking to learn from the museum’s Universal Design-based transformation, particularly the use of user experts as project advisors, and I expect it will serve as a model for best practices moving forward.”
Signature new museum exhibits include:
da Vinci Workshop – Visitors can use tools, tinker, design, build, and invent like the artist, scientist, engineer, and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. Using recycled materials, off-the-shelf supplies, and tools and technology ranging from scissors and saws to electronic circuits and conductive thread, visitors can design and build diverse creations inspired by da Vinci’s creative thinking. A vertical airstream allows experimentation of aerodynamics principles and engineering concepts with flying and hovering prototypes.
Brain Building Together – A special space for caregivers and their children aged birth through three to play and spend time together—two powerful ingredients for healthy development according to current brain science. Visitors can explore objects, make things happen, share stories, investigate with their senses, snuggle, play peekaboo, and observe a child’s own unique ways of playing.
Simple Machines Gallery – Visitors explore balls, ramps, gears and cogs, inclined planes, screws, and pulleys to see and feel how these simple machines use mechanical advantage to accomplish a task. Children can create and set off a chain reaction and use gears to flap the wings of the giant da Vinci ornithopter, a flying machine he designed intended for human-powered flight.
Sound Gallery – The amazing properties of sound become visible and hands-on for all. Visitors will explore and experience sound by seeing, hearing and feeling waves and physical vibrations.
Yes, It’s Math! – This gallery of fun, hands-on activities uses real world, visual interpretations of math concepts to show that math is all around us, every day—and enjoyable!
A-Mazing Airways – This 13’-foot-tall interactive pneumatic sculpture of tubes and blowers allows visitors to test and demonstrate the incredible power of air. It is the only free-standing exhibit of its kind in North America.
Water Gallery – Laminar Flow, Double Open Vortex, Morphable Stream, the Coanda Effect—the fascinating scientific principles of water are pure, wet fun through hands-on experimentation in this all-new exhibit.
Light & Color Gallery – This visitor-favorite exhibit on the properties of and relationship between light and color has been reimagined and recreated using LED technology to be more vividly engaging for all.
Bessie’s House – a reproduction façade of the original Children’s Discovery Museum building is inside the new museum, with reimagined and accessible versions of iconic exhibits designed for early learners, including the Train Room, Ship Room, Bessie’s Diner, and Backyard at Night.
Community Gallery -- A 1,500 square foot open space will allow the museum to host traveling exhibits that complement its regular collection; it will also accommodate large-scale, long-term visitor projects. The museum will open with Bricks, Sticks, and Arches, a community building project.
New Name, New Brand Identity
In conjunction with the opening of the new building, the museum is launching a new brand to communicate the changes to the institution. The new name—Discovery Museum (formerly The Discovery Museums)—is a subtle change that accurately reflects the single building now on campus; the familiarity of the name signals that the museum has not left its roots. A new logo visually represents a changed and expanded experience; the use of sparks suggests a mindful evolution from old logo to new. The sparks themselves represent the museum's long-standing mission to spark discovery and learning through hands-on inquiry and scientific investigation. A refreshed color palette moves away from the early-childhood colors of blue, yellow, and green, and instead offers a more broad and mature—yet still fun and playful—palette anchored by a deep purple.
About Discovery Museum
Discovery Museum is a hands-on museum that blends science, nature, and play, inspiring families to explore and learn together. The museum and its Discovery Woods accessible outdoor nature playscape and 550-square-foot treehouse blend the best of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) learning on a beautiful 4.5-acre campus in Acton, MA, about 20 miles west of Boston. Originally founded in 1982, the museum was expanded and completely renovated in 2017. Hands-on, playful exhibits developed by professional educators inspire curiosity, exploration, and imagination, providing a fun and engaging experience for children and adults to discover their world together. Serving families and schools from towns throughout the region, the museum is devoted to informal education that enhances classroom learning. Discovery Museum is committed to accessibility, and is a proud recipient of the 2017 Massachusetts Commonwealth Award, the only winner in the Access category. For more information please visit www.discoveryacton.org. Discovery Museum is a community-supported non-profit organization.
Discovery Museum programming is supported in part by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.