Little Rock, Ark. (January 14, 2022) – March 11 will mark the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Museum of Discovery. The Little Rock-based science center makes the announcement of the anniversary and its celebrations on another important date, its 10th anniversary of reopening following a $9.2 million renovation funded by a Donald W. Reynolds Foundation grant. The January 14, 2012, reopening also is when the Museum of Discovery changed its mission to have a science, technology, engineering, arts and math focus.
The Arkansas Museum of Natural History and Antiquities, the institution’s original name, was founded in 1927 by Bernie Babcock, a suffragist, author and mother, who wanted to prove that Arkansans were cultured following a series of columns by H.L. Menken in the Baltimore Sun that disparaged the state and its citizens. The museum relocated from its original storefront location near Main and Second streets to City Hall in 1929 and operated there until 1935. In 1939, Babcock, with the help of the city, renovated the Tower Building of the federal arsenal in MacArthur Park and reopened the museum there in 1942, where it remained for 55 years. The museum relocated to the River Market in 1998, when it was renamed Museum of Discovery. This move, along with the complete renovation unveiled in 2012, drove significant increases in the science center’s attendance. In the 10 years since the museum reopened, it has seen 1,335,500 guests walk through its doors.
Another significant milestone will occur later in 2022 when the first of several installations and renovations will occur. In November, the museum will unveil a two-story, three-tower climbing structure, and in summer 2023, guests can expect all new exhibits in two new galleries: Science Lab and Dynamic Earth. Later that year, the museum plans to renovate the WoW Gallery and Room to Grow, its space for children 6 and younger, assuming the necessary fundraising can be successfully completed. These updates are the museum’s steps forward following the $7 million of flooding damage that occurred in mid-February 2021 when pipes on the building’s roof burst.
“Very few non-profit institutions that double as education centers and tourist attractions have made it 95 years,” says Kelley Bass, Museum of Discovery CEO. “And we’ve overcome many challenges since our founding, most recently a 13-week COVID-19 closure in spring 2020 and then 27 weeks in 2021 because of our devastating flood. But we have always bounced back.
“Bernie Babcock, our founder, built this museum by investing her own money, time and energy, starting in 1927 and continuing for more than 25 years. A major investment by the City of Little Rock allowed us to move from MacArthur Park to the River Market in 1998, and the Reynolds Foundation ushered in our next era of success with its grant in 2011 – proving that significant investments in our museum pays great dividends. Now we are prepared to position the Museum of Discovery for an even brighter future by transforming four of our five galleries. And we can’t wait to see how far forward those investments will propel us – and the experience they will help us provide our guests.”
According to Bass, the museum plans to commemorate both anniversaries throughout the year, including:
- The “10.95” initiative with the goal of receiving 1,000 $95 donations and 95 $1,000 donations. Money raised through those two anniversary campaigns will be applied to the cost of renovating Room to Grow and the WoW gallery and can be made online at https://museumofdiscovery.org/donate/
- The inaugural Bernie Babcock Brunch on June 11. The event, named in honor of the museum’s founder, will raise money for the museum’s Girls in STEM program, which introduces young women to their potential in STEM education and careers
- A membership giveaway to 10 families. Details can be found on the museum’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MuseumofDiscovery
- Prize packages to the 10th and 95th guests to the museum this weekend. The 95th guest on future weekends will receive a commemorative button
- A 95th birthday bash theme for the museum’s Science After Dark event for adults from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, March 31
- Frequent posts on the museum’s social media platforms and website highlighting its history and collections
In addition to financial donations, Bass says the public can support the museum by:
- Signing up to volunteer by emailing email@example.com
- Submitting pictures, videos and/or stories of their experiences at Museum of Discovery – even going back to the years in MacArthur Park – to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the anniversary celebrations or upcoming renovations, visit www.museumofdiscovery.org.