INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY
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 Science 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 featuring the Great Gravity Clock, 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. In 2018, the Museum served 90,000 students on school-sponsored field trips plus an 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 . Watch the 1980 video of the Discovery Center.
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 25 years. 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 one 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, joined with the Museum to extend its reach and effectiveness. 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Museum of Discovery and Science.
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 $25 million campaign, 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 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.
· The Powerful You, Go Green, and Aviation Station exhibits, within the Museum’s original architectural footprint, provide 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.
In early 2018, MODS launched a campaign for a $1.5M expansion of its increasingly popular Aviation exhibit hall, TO FLY. The expansion plans will add another 3,000 square feet to the hall, bringing the total exhibit space to more than 8,000 square feet. Within this expanded space, other aviation topics will be presented including helicopters and drones. MODS will be working with acclaimed documentary producers MacGillivray Freeman to create a new film for the 7D Theater within TO FLY that will showcase careers in aviation including those specific to the south Florida community. The cornerstone of the expansion is “The Hangar”, an innovative aviation themed makerspace.
Consistent with the intent of a makerspace, “The Hangar” will be a fusion of science lab, workshop, computer lab and art room, just to name a few. It will be designed to be flexible and accommodate a wide range of activities, tools and materials. Diversity and cross-pollination of activities are critical to the design, making and exploration process, and they are what set makerspaces apart from single-use spaces. “The Hangar” will be a space that is functional for a range of grade levels and integrated as part of school field trip experiences, individual and group visits as well as a private event space for birthday parties, team building and special events. Local maker clubs will be invited to use the space and, making activities will be led by MODS’ team of STEM educators. Within the makerspace, MODS will offer a wide range of activities from robotics and electronics to sewing and 3D printing. The opportunities for programs are endless and, will continue to evolve as the space matures.
In 2018, the 27,000-square-foot Science Park opened in the backyard. Kids, school groups and parents regularly enjoy the fresh air and safe surroundings of the Science Park as they continue their exploration of the Museum outdoors. Giant full-body exhibits demonstrate key principles of physics and engineering while also providing entertainment and group interaction. Visitors explore together and experiment with basic principles of the physical world and come to intuitive understanding of how they work. This green oasis in the center of the City of Fort Lauderdale sparks curiosity whether you are two or 82. The Science Park is a key element in the Museum’s commitment to enhancing the pipeline of today’s youth toward STEM knowledge and careers. As the Museum experience has extended outdoors, visitors 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 additions 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.