Arkansas Museum of Discovery
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The Museum of Discovery: Arkansas' Museum of Science & History, is located in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. The museum is housed in a historic building in the River Market District on the Arkansas River. The Clinton Presidential Center is within walking distance.
Prolific writer and prohibitionist, Bernie Babcock, established The Arkansas Museum of Natural History and Antiquities in 1927 in response to criticism from H.L. Mencken that Arkansans were "bumpkins" who lacked cultural centers. Babcock first opened her museum in a downtown storefront on Main Street. Her museum had several sensational exhibits, such as the supposed head of a Chicago criminal and the King Crowley, now considered the greatest archaeological fake in Arkansas history. Her collection also included taxidermy specimens from other museums, "primitive art," and multicultural dolls. To secure the continued existence of her museum, Babcock gave the museum to the city of Little Rock as a Christmas gift in 1929 and it then moved to city hall. In 1942, the Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal was renovated due to the efforts of the Aesthetic Club, Little Rock philanthropist Frederick W. Allsop, and the Works Progress Administration. It would become the new home of The Arkansas Museum of Natural History and Antiquities, and remain there for some fifty-five years. The museum continued to grow and acquire more and better artifacts and exhibits. The museum was one of three state organizations to receive a mold of the Arkansaurus fridayi fossil, "The Arkansas Dinosaur", and also had a statue of it. It became the Museum of Science and Natural History in 1964, and the Arkansas Museum of Science and History in 1983. The increasing professionalism of the staff and museum led to accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 1993. In 1997/98, the museum became the Museum of Discovery: Arkansas' Museum of Science and History, relocating to the River Market. The Children's Museum of Arkansas, located in Union Station merged with the Museum of Discovery in 2003. In 2008 the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation awarded a $9.2 million grant to the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock for expansion and renovations. These would include three new interactive exhibits and, construction of a new entrance from Clinton Avenue (the entrance now is from the lobby of the Museum Center, an office building that has a number of other tenants including the museum). The museum still needs to raise $3.5 million in matching money.
The museum houses a wide array of interactive exhibits on science, history, and technology. Permanent exhibits include: Arkansas Indians; Bug Zoo; Energy!; Health Hall; Imagination Station; Passports to the World; Room To Grow; Worlds of the Forest. The museum has a collection of small live animals, multicultural masks, Kewpie dolls and a Friendship Doll.