Although the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, better known as The Discovery, was originally founded as a children’s museum, the museum experience is not just for kids anymore. There was a time when the museum was designed to appeal predominantly to children ages 12 and under, but that time has passed. Over the last three years, many changes and additions have been made to The Discovery that have transformed the museum experience into something that appeals to learners of all ages — from 1 to 101.
In July 2015 The Discovery unveiled a 2,500 square foot exhibition entitled Inside Out: an Anatomy Experience. Inside Out explores the curiosities of human anatomy and goes in-depth into the interesting ways our bodies work, grow, age and heal. The primary audience for this permanent addition to the museum is middle and high school students. However, there is plenty of content that will engage adults and empower early learners as well.
The most recent addition — although temporary — has also proven attractive to visitors of all ages. Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants is an awe-inspiring exhibition from National Geographic based on the travels and research of Dr. Zeb Hogan, a National Geographic Explorer and Assistant Research Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno College of Science. This exhibition, which debuted in March 2015 in Washington, D.C. offers digital and hands-on exhibits, evocative video installations, and five humongous, life-size models of freshwater fish weighing in at over 200 lbs. or measuring six feet or longer. In conjunction with the Monster Fish exhibition, the museum has added large aquariums containing five unique species of “monster fish” — alligator gar, white sturgeon, redtail catfish, rare Devils Hole pupfish, and a three-foot-long electric eel named “The Creature.” See this one before it gets away … Monster Fish is on exhibit until through September 5th.
So, why would an organization founded as a children’s museum want to become a science center? The answer is simple, to broaden the impact of its mission. A science center can serve learners of all ages, children included, with relevant and impactful science learning opportunities. The task of reaching a broad demographic is not so easy for a children’s museum. By functioning as a science center in our community, The Discovery can serve early learners, teens, adults, and just about anyone interested in science, technology, engineering, art or math. By cultivating more in-depth learning experiences typically found in a science center, The Discovery helps raise the bar for learning opportunities in our community.
The results of The Discovery’s transformation are already beginning to be seen. Since the opening of Monster Fish, museum visitation has increased dramatically. In 2015 alone, The Discovery welcomed more than 164,000 eager visitors through its doors. Locals are proud to have The Discovery as an exemplar in our community, and tourists are impressed that our region is home to such a large-scale science center. And, the influx of new businesses relocating to Northern Nevada seem ready to engage with The Discovery as a way to encourage careers in the emerging career fields they require.
With the continued support of members, volunteers and donors, The Discovery will continue its transformation and its mission to create interest and engagement in science for all.
Patrick Turner is the marketing & communications director for the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum.
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