Discovery World

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Not to be confused with Discovery World (TV channel).
Pier Wisconsin
88-foot replica of the Challenge, a mid-1800s Great Lakes freight schooner

Discovery World is a science and technology center located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at 500 N. Harbor Drive. It formerly was located at 815 N. James Lovell Street.

The museum focuses on innovation and technology, as well as Great Lakes education and conservation. Its building is filled with interactive exhibits, the Reiman Aquarium, two theaters, and is home to Wisconsin's official flagship, the Denis Sullivan, a fully functional sailing vessel modeled after a 19th-century Great Lakes schooner. The entire Great Lakes watershed, built to scale in the Great Lakes Future Exhibit, addresses freshwater issues, stewardship, and our relationship with freshwater resources. Many of the exhibits have to do with Milwaukee or the Great Lakes (including a 3-D diorama of the Great Lakes)

The museum is operated by Discovery World, Ltd. which was formed after a merger with Pier Wisconsin, Ltd.


Discovery World was founded by Robert Powrie Harland Senior and was initially known as the Science, Economics and Technology Center, and plans for it appeared in the Milwaukee Journal in 1981. Articles mentioning Discovery World date back to 1986 in the Milwaukee Sentinel and suggest that the museum's early location was the Milwaukee Public library.[1] Paul Krajniak was director of exhibit development at the time.[2] This location was inside the Wisconsin Ave. entrance of the library but had its doors before the inner doors to the library area, allowing visitors to go to the museum without entering the library area or passing through the book scanners on the way out. The museum featured hands-on exhibits, computerized simulations, and science shows. Admission was $1.50 for adults and $1 for children.[3]


Discovery World features 14 interactive science, technology, and freshwater exhibits throughout its 120,000 foot facility. These exhibits include:

  • The Reiman Aquarium takes visitors on a journey from the Great Lakes to the Caribbean. Fitted with ten tanks that represent the changes along the way from Milwaukee to Miami, guests begin in the fresh waters of Lake Michigan, before moving past the Great Lakes and into the St. Lawrence Seaway, and ultimately going southward to the Florida Keys and the Caribbean Sea. The Reiman Aquarium also is home to a Touch Tank that includes Lake Sturgeon, Sting Rays, Bamboo Sharks, Starfish, Sea Stars, and Pencil Urchins.
  • Les Paul’s House of Sound is an interactive experience that showcases the innovative and creative spirit of the legendary musician, Les Paul. The exhibit allows visitors to travel along Les’ timeline to see his humble beginnings in Wisconsin to his travels around the world. Les Paul’s House of Sound features three different areas: Les’ Early Years, The Musician on the Road to Stardom, and Friends of Les Paul. Select features of the exhibit include Les Paul’s Grammy Awards, the first Gibson Les Paul ever produced, and the “Klunker” Les used to produce top ten hits.
  • Helen Bader Foundation’s Great Lakes Future is one of the largest interactive models of the Great Lakes. The exhibit features flora and fauna that populate the Great Lakes, an interactive hydrologic cycle that allows guests to control the weather, and a Sky Bridge that offers the opportunity to see the Great Lakes in a whole new way.
  • City of Freshwater & Badger Meter Liquid House explains how the water we use in our homes eventually flows back to Lake Michigan, why Milwaukee has some of the world’s best drinking water, and much more. Other features of this exhibit include a look into Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District processes, Milwaukee Water Works, and Milwaukee’s Deep Tunnel project that reduces the amount of wastewater dumped into Lake Michigan each year.
  • Rockwell Automation Dream Machine invites the public to design products to take home, experience a custom-built automated factory, and learn modern engineering trends. Guests are also able to operate the controls of the retractable domes of Miller Park and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Other popular exhibits featured at Discovery World include The Challenge, Simple Machine Shipyard, Briggs & Stratton Milwaukee Muscle, WE Energies Energy & Ingenuity, Johnson Controls Techno Jungle, HIVE 3D Environment, Clean Air Trek, BIG Presented by Caterpillar, and The Distant Mirror - an Anne Gayman Johnson Experience.

In May 2012, Discovery World unveiled a rotating seasonal exhibit. The first of these exhibits was centered upon the Summerfest musical festival.[4] Most recently, Discovery World featured "Baseball – Innovations That Changed the Game" during the summer of 2013.[5]


Discovery World also offers a plethora of differing experiences for families and children. These experiences include:

  • TESLA LIVES! is a live theater show held every weekend in Discovery World’s Innovation Theater. The show is centered upon the famed inventor Nikola Tesla and how he helped design the modern world. The show has drawn rave reviews since being unveiled in 2008.
  • Sailing Vessel Denis Sullivan is the world’s only re-creation of a 19th-century three-masted Great Lakes schooner that was completed in Milwaukee in 2000 by professional shipwrights and nearly 1,000 volunteers. The S/V Denis Sullivan provides an array of maritime experiences, from two hour Lake Watches for families to multi-day educational sails for teens and adults. In 2000-2001, former Governor Tommy Thompson presented the S/V Denis Sullivan as the official Tall Ship of Wisconsin.
  • Kohl’s Design It! Quick Shop is a weekend experience that turns the Kohl’s Design It! Lab into a café that serves up a full menu of projects like laser-cut cardboard houses or apparel made with repurposed materials. A Kohl’s Design It! Waitstaff assists visitors through the designing experience while teaching how to use various tools and design projects to take home.
  • Virtual Les Paul is a one-of-a-kind experience inside Discovery World’s Video Studio where adults or teens are able play the guitar alongside a virtual Les Paul. Inspired by Les Paul’s invention of sound on sound, the Discovery World Media Team has combined green screen technology and pre-recorded video to create video experiences that feel completely real.

Labs & Studios[edit]

Discovery World features 10 labs and studios that are used to expand people’s innovative skills and connect people with innovation, creativity, science, technology and the environment; especially freshwater resources and the Great Lakes. The labs are interconnected, encouraging the public to move freely from one space to the next, and are tools designed to teach the public how teach and innovate. The 10 labs and studios are made up of:

  • Biology Lab allows the public to explore everything from microscopic organisms to understanding how to measure different substances and materials using professional laboratory tools. By demonstrating proper lab techniques the public experiences a new relationship with the natural world – especially the most abundant resource – the Great Lakes.
  • Kohl’s Design It! Lab serves as a space that exposes visitors to industry professionals, equipment, industrial design, and the economic opportunities within the realms of sustainability, design, and beauty. The lab explores the science of the human body, unleashes the power of Nature to inspire innovative ideas, and examines cultures by discovering how artifacts are made, through hands-on design projects.
  • Print & Publishing Lab is a creative space that focuses on the physical applications of graphic design and digital artwork that can be applied to the business and art world. Through customized classes and workshops, designers and entrepreneurs gain access to pro-level software and screen printing equipment. Visitors also gain the skills to turn their designs into physical products that can be used in the marketplace.
  • MillerCoors THIRST Lab is a space designed to teach Milwaukee how to understand water: water as a resource, water as an ingredient, water as an opportunity. By examining the production process in the THIRST Lab, participants become aware of water’s role in the creation of products, and are empowered to explore, experiment, and innovate.
  • General Science Lab is known for its versatility and extension of the other nine labs and studios by providing more space and tools for the public to engage in designing their future. The lab is equally home to programs and experiences having to do with archaeology, physics, chemistry, and computer drafting and design.
  • Electronics Lab gives every inventor a place to tinker. Participants from grade school through college and beyond can explore circuitry, robotics, mechanical design, and relationships to the natural world in the Electronics Lab.
  • Digital Arts Lab teaches people to develop original ideas and creative skills in the areas of visual art, digital literacy, audio and writing. Professional software and WACOM drawing tablets are key tools that students use in developing original, quality work.
  • Video Studio connects people with innovation and creativity by activating their presentation and digital literacy skills. The studio uses divergent educational techniques in a pro-level production space that prepares people for many areas of pursuit. This versatile studio is also a production space for photography, live performance, and professional rentals.
  • Audio Studio is a professional environment designed for creating high quality music and voice recordings for podcasts. Using high-end digital and analog equipment in three isolation booths, the Discovery World staff guides students, musicians, and industry professionals through the process of capturing and working with sound for a variety of projects.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°02′13″N 87°53′46″W / 43.036818°N 87.896045°W / 43.036818; -87.896045