Renovations are underway and on schedule toward a planned March 1 reopening of the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs.
The museum closed in August to remodel and add exhibits and new features, funded through a $7.8 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation that required $1.6 million in matching funds.
Wittenberg Delony & Davidson Architects of Little Rock is the project's architect, and Nabholz Construction Services of Little Rock is the general contractor.
The museum, which opened in 1979 and has been a Smithsonian Institution affiliate since 2001, is undergoing its first renovation and expansion. New features include new classroom space, a maker space, updated exhibits for school groups, activities for adults and opportunities for teacher professional development in hands-on science education.
Many of the new exhibits are being created at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and will be trucked to Hot Springs in time for the re-opening.
Some of the bigger new features will include:
- The Oaklawn Foundation Digital Dome Theater, which will seat up to 50 people and have a full-dome projection-style show with a 180-degree viewing area.
- The Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk, which will extend 280 feet into the forest canopy from the main building and include a large treehouse and a network of platforms and bridges 32 feet in the air.
- The 5,600-SF Arkansas Underfoot space, a regional approach to earth and life sciences unique to Arkansas that will include a refurbished "underground" cave experience, a refurbished Mastodon skeleton replica and a central tree-shaped structure that will function as a base for exhibits about soil and small works by local artisans.
- New exhibits in the 3,500-SF Marvelous Motion exhibit gallery, devoted to forces and effects of matter, energy and gravity.
- The Inventors Workshop gallery, which the museum calls "a major new platform" for discovery learning. The space will include up to six workshops on heat and temperature, mechanics, fluids, math and patterns, time and motion perception, structures, and electricity and magnetism.
The 60,000-SF museum is located on 21 forested acres adjacent to National Park Community College.