500 President Clinton Ave., Suite 150|
Little Rock, Arkansas
The Museum of Discovery is located in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. The museum is housed in a historic building in the River Market District on the Arkansas River. The Clinton Presidential Center is within walking distance.
Prolific writer and prohibitionist, Bernie Babcock, established The Arkansas Museum of Natural History and Antiquities in 1927 in response to criticism from H.L. Mencken that Arkansans were "bumpkins" who lacked cultural centers. Babcock first opened her museum in a downtown storefront on Main Street. Her museum had several sensational exhibits, such as the supposed head of a Chicago criminal and the King Crowley, now considered the greatest archaeological fake in Arkansas history. Her collection also included taxidermy specimens from other museums, "primitive art," and multicultural dolls. To secure the continued existence of her museum, Babcock gave the museum to the city of Little Rock as a Christmas gift in 1929 and it then moved to city hall. In 1942, the Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal was renovated due to the efforts of the Aesthetic Club, Little Rock philanthropist Frederick W. Allsop, and the Works Progress Administration. It would become the new home of The Arkansas Museum of Natural History and Antiquities, and remain there for some fifty-five years.
The museum continued to grow and acquire more and better artifacts and exhibits. The museum was one of three state organizations to receive a mold of the Arkansaurus fridayi fossil - "The Arkansas Dinosaur" - and also had a statue of it. It became the Museum of Science and Natural History in 1964, and the Arkansas Museum of Science and History in 1983. The increasing professionalism of the staff and museum led to accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 1993.
In 1997/98, the museum became the Museum of Discovery: Arkansas' Museum of Science and History, relocating to the River Market. The Children's Museum of Arkansas, located in Union Station merged with the Museum of Discovery in 2003. In 2008 the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation awarded a $9.2 million grant to the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock for expansion and renovations. These would include three new interactive exhibits and, construction of a new entrance from Clinton Avenue (the entrance was from the lobby of the Museum Center, an office building that has a number of other tenants including the museum).
Following renovations, the Museum of Discovery reopened in January 2012 with a new focus of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education. All of the exhibits are interactive and the museum features a large live animal collection.
In 2014, the Museum of Discovery's Visitor Experience Director Kevin Delaney became The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon's science expert. Delany makes appearances throughout the year and performs several science demonstrations with Fallon during each appearance.
On July 4, 2015, the Museum of Discovery debuted a Guinness World Record musical bi-polar tesla coil. The tesla coil - named after its inventor Nikola Tesla, the developer of the alternating current system of electricity used today - is a device that creates high-voltage electricity at a high frequency visible to the eye. The Museum of Discovery's coil will emit electrical discharges to a variety of songs and will share the record for the world's largest bi-polar tesla coil with the coil at the Hands On! Regional Museum in Johnson City, Tennessee. The device, which can produce 200,000 volts of electricity, is being built by Goodchild Engineering in Arizona and donated to the Museum of Discovery by Richard Mathias, founder and president of Tesla Coil Museum Exhibit Program, LLC, through a matching grant program from the General Electric Foundation.