Museum of Discovery and Science
|Museum of Discovery and Science|
|Established||1976 as The Discovery Center|
|Location||Fort Lauderdale, Florida|
The mission of the Museum of Discovery and Science is to provide experiential pathways to lifelong learning in science for children and adults through exhibits, programs and films.
The Museum of Discovery and Science has contributed significantly to the revitalization of the arts and sciences district in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Consisting of 119,000 square feet of interior space, the 300-seat AutoNation IMAX Theater, and an open-air grand atrium, the Museum features dynamic interactive exhibits in the natural and physical sciences and a large array of programs designed to serve diverse audiences.
The Museum regularly serves over 400,000 visitors each year and is the primary destination for school field trips in Broward County. Last year, the Museum served 90,000 students on school-sponsored field trips plus additional 60,000 school-age children visiting with friends and family. The ability of the Museum to entertain and educate children and adults through immersive exhibits, engaging educational programming and films, and a live animal collection adds immeasurably to the region’s educational resources.
The Museum began its history as the Discovery Center, a hands-on museum of art, science and history, in 1977 in the historic New River Inn. Over the course of the next few years, several other historic buildings became part of the Museum’s complex.
By 1986, community demand had far exceeded the Museum’s capabilities in the small complex. With an eye toward growth, the Museum aggressively sought inclusion of $8 Million in the City’s General Obligation Bond and mounted a community-wide educational campaign to assure its passage. The Bond passed successfully by a wide voter margin. Armed with this broad-based community support, the Museum then generated $13.6 Million in philanthropy and $11 Million in state funding to complete its $32.6 Million capital campaign. These investments completed funding for the new Museum of Discovery and Science and Blockbuster IMAX Theater, and funded a $3 Million permanent endowment. (The IMAX Theater was renamed the AutoNation IMAX Theater in 2007 in recognition of a major gift.)
Such strong support for the project on the local, regional, statewide and national levels resulted in the Museum being the only debt-free major cultural institution to open in greater Fort Lauderdale in the past two decades. Upon completion of the Capital Campaign, the new Museum opened on November 21, 1992, meeting the increasing demands for informal science education and cultural experiences in South Florida. Attendance topped the 1 million mark in less than two years. In 1996, major additional capital funds were invested in upgrading the IMAX Theater to include 3D projection capability. Numerous community partners, both corporate and institutional, join with the Museum to extend its reach and effectiveness.
In the first decade of the new century, the Museum undertook strategic planning and fundraising, through its Building New Pathways to Discovery campaign, to support the expansion and renewal necessary to guarantee its future as a vital community resource. After a successful campaign raising nearly $25 million, the Museum opened its new EcoDiscovery Center wing on November 11, 2011.
This exciting phase of the Museum’s development included four major components:
• The EcoDiscovery Center, a major new 34,000 square foot wing that effectively doubled the Museum’s public space. Visitors may now examine the Florida environment through a lens of environmental stewardship and discover the interconnections between human actions and the environment and between human health and the health of the environment. Highlights include the Everglades Airboat Adventure, Storm Center, Otters at Play, Water, Prehistoric Florida, and an expanded traveling exhibition hall.
• The Keller Science Theater with comfortable facilities for live programs and lectures and the Mangurian Lifelong Learning Center with four classrooms enhance the Museum’s ability to deliver innovative programs.
• New exhibits Powerful You, Go Green, and Aviation Station, within the Museum’s original architectural footprint, now provide new opportunities for exploring health, conservation, and the physics of flight.
• The Bank of America Visitor Services Pavilion (completed in 2008) provides easy access for tickets and reservations, while enabling the museum to open up its lobby to new uses as the JM Family Great Hall of Science.
Renovations in 2014
During the fall of 2014, the Museum is working on renovations for two areas:
• The Runways to Rockets: Our Place in Aerospace exhibit is undergoing renovation to add new features. The exhibit space will be renamed: To Fly. The highlight of the exhibit space will be a new state-of-the art 7D capsule theater that will take visitors on an exhilarating flight through the sky. This new exhibit experience will use a 3D aviation film, moving seats, and multi-sensory effects to create an unforgettable, educational, and exciting experience. The new look will take shape gradually between August and November and the hall will remain open during this time. The new Simulation Theater will be installed in early December and ready for take off on December 19, 2014. The renovation has been made possible by a generous gift from the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust.
• The AutoNation IMAX 3D Theater will be completely renovated by October 10, 2014 with a new giant screen, new luxury seats, new powerful sound system and the addition of a digital projector to complement our 15/70 film projector. The installation of the new IMAX digital projection system allows us to bring moviegoers more Hollywood blockbusters in IMAX than ever before. The movie industry’s rapid transition from analog film to digital technology is affecting the availability of movie content in the large IMAX 15/70 film format. Having a dual IMAX projection system will allow for the presentation of a more consistent flow of new Hollywood films in addition to classic documentaries. The AutoNation IMAX Theater will bring audiences exclusive presentations of films in 15/70 large format such as Chris Nolan’s Interstellar (film), opening two days early on November 5, 2014. Nolan filmed over one hour of Interstellar (film) using IMAX cameras and only at the AutoNation IMAX Theater will you be able to see the full size of these special IMAX scenes on giant 60’ x 80’ IMAX screen. And in Fall 2015 they will be installing IMAX’s new, state-of-the art 4K laser digital system that utilizes a Laser Light engine (rather than Xenon lamps) to light the biggest IMAX screens in the world (one of only three Certified Giant Screens in Florida.)
In addition, staff and leadership are developing a 27,000 square foot Science Park on Museum property facing Broward Boulevard. As the Museum experience is extended outdoors, visitors will enjoy engaging opportunities to learn about basic principles of physics and engineering in a high-energy atmosphere.
The Museum of Discovery and Science must be as dynamic as the community it serves. The recent expansion and upcoming renovations and new Science Park will ensure the Museum’s continuing success and buttress its ability to deliver meaningful learning opportunities to supplement science education and build a stronger workforce in South Florida for generations to come.
- Florida, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, 2004, pg. 129
- With Otters, an Airboat and Hurricane-force Winds, a Museum Grows, Miami Herald Article, posted 11 November 2011