Everyone knows that museums have galleries full of information, artifacts and artwork. But some of the best experiences that museums have to offer take place outside the galleries.
Throughout the Grand Central states, museum administrators have created facilities and programs that draw visitors in more deeply than do simple exhibits. Whether it’s an interactive, hands-on program, a first-rate restaurant or a high-tech theater with a multimedia program, these museums use every tool at their disposal to thrill and teach groups.
The race into space dominated the news for decades and pitted the United States and the Soviet Union in a battle of technology and sheer determination. Cosmosphere tells that story like no other place with the largest collection of combined rocket and space artifacts in the world.
“We pride ourselves on being the only museum that tells the space program story in chronological order, which is unusual,” said Janet Fischer, the museum’s group sales manager. “It goes back to World War II early rocket technology and continues to the space programs of the two nations, including our Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, and us being the first on the moon. Then it gets into the International Space Station.”
The museum has four distinct sections. The popular Hall of Space has all the cool space equipment. “We’re preserving history,” said Fischer. “You can read about these things but not really experience them unless you see actual spacecrafts.” Justice Planetarium has a state-of-the-art digital projector that will expand the minds and delight the senses of group members who grab a seat inside.
Dr. Goddard’s Lab is dedicated to the father of modern rocketry, Robert Goddard, and is an “explosive” interactive show. The Carey Digital Dome Theater screens special films and documentaries.
Groups can arrange their own activities, such as attending a seminar on the challenges of living in space presented by a space science educator, or constructing paper space rockets and launching them. “These experience are customized, and not on the daily schedule for the public,” said Fischer.
Cosmosphere also arranges corporate team building and leadership training. Employee groups attend half-day or a full-day sessions designed especially for them. The sessions will reinforce employees’ problem-solving skills, instill confidence and improve communication.
Museum of Discovery
Little Rock, Arkansas
With more than 90 hands-on exhibits and ever-changing programming, the Museum of Discovery is a great destination for any group visiting the capital of Arkansas. What group members see and do is strictly up to them.
“It depends on what a group wants,” said Kendall Thornton, chief marketing officer for the museum. “Groups can come in and get a tour of the facility. But we also offer special programming for groups. That’s when they come into our theater and enjoy a science show with one of our educators.”
Among the educators is Kevin Delaney, director of visitor experience, who has appeared a couple of times on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” He does funny and hip science experiments that captivate groups. For example, on “The Tonight Show,” Delaney created a huge cloud right in the studio. Another time he used liquid nitrogen to explode a giant drum of Ping-Pong balls all around the studio and into the audience. The museum’s staff of educators can wow any group that visits Little Rock with its program called “Awesome Science.”
The Museum of Discovery also has a rare Guinness World Record bipolar tesla coil that creates 250,000 volts of electrical current that is the basis for exciting science experiments. It’s just one of many devices and experiments designed to spark visitors’ interest in science.
Though the museum reaches out to kids, it is not a children’s museum per se.
“We have a lot of adult groups that book this type of programming,” said Thornton. “It’s fun at any age. We shouldn’t stop learning. We want everyone to get excited about science, technology and math.”