The Museum of Discovery will celebrate its 95th anniversary on March 11. The science center based in Little Rock also celebrates the 10th year anniversary of reopening after the $9.2 million Donald W. Reynolds Foundation grant on Jan. 14, 2012.
What was founded in 1927 as the Arkansas Museum of Natural History and Antiquities by Bernie Babcock, a suffragist, author and mother who wanted to prove that Arkansans were cultured, dedicated itself to science, technology and more at the reopening.
“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,” says CEO Kelley Bass. “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.”
While the original storefront was located near main and second streets, it has moved across the city from city hall to the tower building, to the River Market, where it still stands. With a higher focus on science, within the last 10 years, it has seen 1,335,500 guests walk through its doors.
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, the museum plans to renovate the WoW Gallery and Room to Grow, its space for children 6 and younger, upon necessary fundraising being completed.
These updates follow the $7 million of flooding damage that occurred in 2021 when pipes on the building’s roof burst.
“Very few nonprofit institutions that double as education centers and tourist attractions have made it 95 years, 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,” Bass says.
The museum plans to commemorate these important anniversaries throughout the year in the following ways:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
For more information about the anniversary celebrations or upcoming renovations, visit the website.