Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

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Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
Boonshoftmuseumof discovery1.JPG
The main entrance to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
Established 1893 (Museum of Natural History), 1995 (Boonshoft)[1]
Location Dayton, Ohio
Coordinates 39°47′20″N 84°12′06″W / 39.78882°N 84.20179°W / 39.78882; -84.20179

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a children's museum, science and technology center and zoo in Dayton, Ohio, United States that focuses on science and natural history. Exhibits include an extensive natural history collection as well as maintaining a collection of live animals native to Ohio and abroad. Educational outreach extends to the community by providing in-school programming and on-site special programs. SunWatch Indian Village and Fort Ancient are the sister sites to the museum.[2]

The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM),[3] affiliated with the Association of Children's Museums (ACM), and is a governing member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC).[4] In addition, the museum's indoor Discovery Zoo is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.[5] The museum is the only zoo, aquarium, planetarium or science center in Dayton,[6] and also houses the Apollo Observatory, an astronomical observatory operated by the Miami Valley Astronomical Society.[7]


The Dayton Museum of Natural History began in 1893 as a part of the Dayton Metro Library and Museum. Over the years, collections gathered by prominent Dayton citizens on their trips around the world were contributed to the museum. Local natural history collections were also contributed. In 1952, a group of citizens organized the Dayton Society of Natural History which took responsibility for the collections and transformed them into the Dayton Museum of Natural History. In 1958, the Museum of Natural History's main building on Ridge Avenue was completed. In 1991, a new planetarium and expanded collection and exhibit space were added. The Society remained committed to the ideal of inspiring children to enthusiastically embrace science as a vital aspect of their lives through exhibits and programs that were both entertaining and educational.[1]

In 1991 the museum added a Digistar II Planetarium to its facilities.

In 1993 a group of interested community leaders formed a steering committee to explore the idea of creating the Children's Museum of Dayton. This group believed that a children's museum could reach children ages two through twelve and instill in them a lifelong love of learning as well as an appreciation for the world around them. The group formed a governing board, launched a mobile outreach program, displayed model exhibits, and began planning for a permanent home in downtown Dayton.

As the Children's Museum movement gained visibility, the similarity between its philosophy and the Museum of Natural History's mission became very clear. In the summer of 1995, the Children's Museum Board and Board of the Dayton Society of Natural History began discussing ways to collaborate. By January, 1996, these talks resulted in an enthusiastic agreement to fully merge boards under the umbrella of the Dayton Society of Natural History. (The Dayton Society of Natural History is the parent organization of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and its sister organization, SunWatch Indian Village—a museum of the area's 12th century Fort Ancient culture—and Finley Nature Preserve, which is not open to the public.) As a result of the merger, the Dayton Museum of Discovery was created and assumed all public, educational, and programming functions previously associated with the Dayton Museum of Natural History.[8]

The board commissioned a professionally developed exhibits master plan that would take into account all of the resources and potential brought to the table by both organizations and by May 1999 Phases I and II of an extensive exhibits master plan had been completed. The name of the museum was changed to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in January, 1999, in recognition of Oscar Boonshoft, one of the museum's most dedicated friends.

In March 2013, the Dayton Society of Natural History opened a satellite version of their main museum, called the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield, in an approximately 4000-square-foot space in the Upper Valley Mall near Springfield,[9] moving to 20,000 square feet in the former Elder-Beerman space in November. On March 25, 2016, the Dayton Society of Natural History announced that it would close this satellite museum;[10] it did so on April 30.[11]

Permanent museum exhibits[edit]

Science On a Sphere
is a 68-inch-diameter (1.7 m) globe, suspended in mid-air, capable of showing dynamic visualizations of Earth and space. It also has the capability of showing commercial air traffic around the world while presenting other things such as turtle migrations.[12]
Hall of the Universe
is an exhibit where interactive learning can take place about the solar system. Also contains the Exoplanet Exploration exhibit.
Explorers Crossing
consists of a play grocery store, court house, veterinary clinic, recycling center, and more where children can learn, role play, and interact with hundreds of different pieces to learn more about associated topics within each setting.[13]
Oscar Boonshoft Science Central
is an exhibit that contains a water table where children can learn about water and its properties, a manipulative area where children can learn about points, lines, and curves through rubber band art, a demonstrative laboratory, and several other interactive areas.[14]
Children in the Discovery Zoo exhibit
Nesiur the Mummy
is an exhibit that contains a mummy donated to the museum from Egypt, and other African pieces.[15]
Glowing Geology
is an exhibit that contains glowing rocks that children can interact with.
Mead Tree House
is a fully enclosed tree house where children can learn about environmental preservation and use binoculars to do bird watching through windows within the tree house.[15]
The Tidal Pool
is an exhibit that contains live sea water specimins such as starfish, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, and gumboot chitons. The exhibit is run by a museum employee.
The Bieser Discovery Center
is an exhibit that contains thousands of real specimens such as animal skeletons, shells, and fossils. Also located in the exhibit are several live specimins that include a burmese python, an emerald tree boa, hissing cockroach, and tarantulas. Along with these things are many science related children's books.[16]
Bobcat at the Discovery Zoo exhibit
The Discovery Zoo
is an indoor zoo that is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that showcases mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians that are native to Ohio.[17] The zoo has a prairie habitat, a temperate forest habitat, and a wetland habitat,[1] and is home to nearly one hundred animals including a two toed sloth, bat-eared foxes, and North American river otters. As of 2010 the Discovery Zoo was expanded to include exhibits for several other animal species including African meerkats and a chameleon. Although the museum does not itself rehabilitate injured animals, many of the animals, including the zoo's two river otters, came to the zoo after being injured in the wild and rehabilitated elsewhere, and would be unable to survive on their own.[17] The Discovery zoo was renovated in 2010 to expand its capacity and recreate a new style to the zoo. The project also included the addition of around 18 new species of animals to the zoo. The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is one of only four museums in the United States that are accredited as an official zoo. The project came at a cost of $1 million.[18]


The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a popular spot for school field trips. In addition to school field trips, the museum has a program called Exhibits-To-Go which are a set of exhibits that can be taken directly to school classrooms in the Dayton area.[19]

Each day the staff presents special programs such as hands-on science experiments, otter feedings, Planetarium shows, story times, and bird watching (at the Mead Tree House),[15] Science on a Sphere live presentations,[12] and visits with live animals.[20]


The museum hosts many special events each year, such as Red White & Boonshoft, GeekFest, and Eureka!. The Education Department also holds large-scale activities in support of Biology, Nanotechnology and Chemistry, and the Astronomy Department holds Astronomy Day and special Friday night star gazing events.[20]

The future[edit]

In 2010, NASA awarded more than $800,000 to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery for the creation of an Exoplanet Exploration exhibit.[21]

Along with the museum's permanent exhibits, there are also traveling exhibits that are commonly presented at the museum.[22]

In the wake of the 2016 closure of the satellite museum at the Upper Valley Mall, the Dayton Society of Natural History had considered relocating the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield into a building on South Fountain Avenue in downtown Springfield. The society estimated it would have needed to raise $2 million for building renovations and $2 million for an endowment to operate the satellite. Renovations were to begin in early 2017, with reopening expected in late 2017 or early 2018.[10] In July 2016 the society decided against this location because of the cost and the short timeframe for fundraising. The society and Springfield leaders reported that they were still working together to find another location.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio". City-Data. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "SunWatch Programs". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "Alliance Accredited Institutions" (PDF). American Alliance of Museums. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "Museum Accreditations". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "Top Children’s Museums – Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton". USA Travel Guide. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "Apollo Observatory". Miami Valley Astronomicaql Society. 3 November 2008. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  8. ^ "Museum History". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Grieco, Lou (March 10, 2013). "Satellite branch could lead to additional museum growth". Springfield News-Sun. Retrieved March 27, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Cooper, Michael (March 25, 2016). "Boonshoft to close Springfield mall location". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved March 27, 2016. 
  11. ^ Sanctis, Matt (April 30, 2016). "Boonshoft’s mall location hosts one final party before closing". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "Science on a Sphere". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  13. ^ "Explorers Crossing". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  14. ^ "Oscar Boonshoft Science Central". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c "Permanent Exhibits". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  16. ^ "Bieser Discovery Center". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "Discovery Zoo". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  18. ^ "Zoo renovation". Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  19. ^ "Education Programs". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  20. ^ a b "Programs and Events". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  21. ^ Wedell, Katie (12 May 2010). "NASA grant to fund new Boonshoft exhibit". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  22. ^ "Future Exhibits". Boonshoft Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  23. ^ Cooper, Michael; Sanctis, Matt (July 22, 2016). "Boonshoft unlikely to re-open in downtown Springfield". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 

External links[edit]