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By Molly Loughman
Earlier this month, the Discovery Museums launched “Ready, Set, Build!” the final phase of its $8.4 million capital campaign to expand the museums’ facilities and reconstruct the campus.
“This is what we’ve been working toward for a lot of years. When you get to the part of a project like this where you announce a public phase of your capital campaign, you better be ready to actually do it and we are,” said Discovery Museums CEO Neil Gordon, expressing appreciation for the community-wide support for Discovery Museums. “This is our 35th year in Acton and we’ve been really very fortunate that people have embraced the idea of having a children’s museum in their town and we really appreciate that.”
The public effort will not only complete the Discovery Museums’ capital campaign, but also fulfill the $1 million dollar-for-dollar Community Challenge Grant awarded by the Manton Foundation in 2016 and also meet the Discovery Museums’ fundraising goal for its 2017 operations.
The Discovery Museums seeks to raise $700,000 by Dec. 31, $350,000 of which will complete the capital campaign. “Ready, Set, Build!” would allow Phase 2, the expansion and complete renovation of the Science Discovery Museum building, to break ground this summer.
“‘Ready, Set, Build’ is the way we chose to reach out and tell the community that we’re ready to grow and to do even more for the community, while also reaching out to say ‘We could use everyone’s support.’ We would move more people in the community to be a part of this,” said Gordon, noting over 130 generous donors raised $8 million-plus for the campaign. “That says to us the capital campaign has been important bringing forth the mission of the Discovery Museums in the community.”
The project would double the square footage of the building space, from 5,000 to 10,000-square-feet. This would allow for the exhibits from the two existing museums on site to be combined into one single building, with improved and expanded visitor amenities and exhibits, explained Gordon.
Project designers and architects, Cambridge Seven Associates, has had a successfully long-term relationship with Discovery Museums, Gordon noted.
“I think their design is simple and restrained in a way that allows the great stuff we’re doing outdoors and the great exhibits indoors to really be the driving force in our space. So they’re not trying to overpower people with architecture. They’re giving us a space that enhances the usability of the building,” said Gordon.
Founded in 1982, the Children’s Discovery Museum, a three-story, 150-year-old Victorian house, will be no longer be available for public use when the new museum building opens in late 2017. Its future purpose, which cannot meet today’s access standards due to its historical nature, is still in discussion, said Gordon.
“The next piece would be to figure out what to do with the building, but all of the experiences that are in the [Children’s Discovery Museum] are going to be recreated or enhanced in the new building. So it truly is going to be a building that available to kids of all ages,” Gordon said.
Inside the building will be a recreated exhibits for younger children in an area with the same façade as the former Victorian house they were originally in, Gordon noted.
The Discovery Museums finished design work and has brought the proposal to the Town for review. Pending approvals, Discovery Museums anticipates the project completion with an open new science building be done by Thanksgiving time this fall, Gordon said.
Opportunities for public recognition in the renovated building will be made available to donors.
“Yes the Discovery Museums is changing, but the real reason for people to invest in us is because of the things that aren’t changing. By that I meant we value safe exploration in intimate spaces – that’s crucial to kids learning. Our emphasis is on real stuff and real experience – that’s not going to change,” said Gordon.
“We believe in real science and the importance of science as a basis for making decisions and understanding the world around us. Most importantly, we believe whatever we do should be available for all kids.”